Friday, June 30, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for June 30

Guests: Richard Wolffe

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

A new tape from bin Laden, who has evidently abandoned video altogether, and doesn't know that nobody gets a lot of play on a long holiday weekend. Funny, though, that he praises Zarqawi after international analysts suggested al Qaeda was just about finished with Zarqawi.

Attacking the media, again. Friendly fire? First "The Wall Street Journal" covers the bank-tapping story. Now "The Wall Street Journal" attacks covering the bank-tapping story, and "The Wall Street Journal" says its bank-tapping story wasn't like those other secret-spilling ones from the mean old communist "New York" and "L.A. Times." "The Wall Street Journal" doe not mention that the secrets of SWIFT banking were so not secret, that SWIFT itself posted them on the Web and boasted of them in its own magazine.

Arigato, arigato very much. Bust out the peanut butter-and-banana sandwiches, Japanese prime minister and Elvis fan club member Koizumi going to Graceland, Graceland. His traveling companions are his big hair and the president.

Star Jones says she's done talking about it during a 400-hour interview with Al Roker.


STAR JONES: I've tried to handle myself in the last few months with grace and dignity.


OLBERMANN: Grace and dignity. She also says she doesn't want a catfight with Baba Wawa. Presumably, she means besides the current won.


JONES: It would be a affront to my character, and an insult to the viewers, if I got into the muck and mud.


OLBERMANN: Wait, into the muck and mud? You mean more into. And who are your viewers now?

Well, maybe this will help everything. On the cusp of June and July, with the holiday nigh, with that soccer thing coming to a climax, with all the big Fourth of July baseball fun coming up, let's take another shot at our Oddball plays of the month.

All that and more, now on Countdown.

Good evening from New York.

Not to discount anything, but if it has ever crossed your mind, just for the briefest moment, that Osama bin Laden might be involved in one of these Orwellian things where the terrorists are actually working for the governments they're supposed to be terrorizing, a reality that might dispel that notion.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, any terrorist really working for any American government would realize you do not make a public statement on the eve of a five-day-long Fourth of July weekend. In fact, this is the exact time you issue news releases and reveal things that you don't want covered in the media. To paraphrase the old line from "The West Wing," It's kind of a take-out-the-trash holiday festival.

Nonetheless, there is at least one new bin Laden tape tonight, perhaps two, a 19-minute audiotape now authenticated by U.S. officials, bin Laden lionizing, quite literally, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq killed earlier this month in a U.S. air strike, also bin Laden defending the slaughter of any Iraqi civilians who are siding with Americans.

Quoting from the tape, "The flag did not fall" with al-Zarqawi's death, bin Laden saying, "but was transferred from one lion to another Islamic lion," in the form of new leadership of al Qaeda in Iraq, not naming anybody, interestingly.

Addressing President Bush, he goes on to say that, quote, "We will continue, God willing, fighting you and your allies everywhere in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Sudan until we exhaust your resources, kill your men, and you go back defeated," what appears to be just part one of the latest message from bin Laden, an Islamic militant Web site announcing late Friday that another message from the terror leader would be forthcoming, specifically about Somalia.

They're now running trailers for these things, the day also bringing new images of the terrorist leader, Reuters releasing pictures of bin Laden today that have never been seen before, but they are believed to be 10 years old, dating to the period when he was temporarily in the Sudan, before returning to Afghanistan, bin Laden's praise of the fallen leader of the insurgency in Iraq coinciding with fresh violence on the ground there.

Forty-six more killed today alone, as well as alarming new charges against American troops engaged in the conflict, the U.S. military opening an investigation into allegations that two to five soldiers from the 101st Airborne allegedly stalked and then raped an Iraqi woman in Mahmoudiyah, south of Baghdad.

Then allegedly they killed her and three members of her family, before, it is also alleged, they covered up the assault, the military reportedly tipped to it by a soldier who broke down in front of a American Army therapist during counseling after the kidnapping and murder of two soldiers from the 101st.

Time now to call in MSNBC counterterrorism analyst, former director on the National Security Council staff, Roger Cressey.

Good evening, Roger.


OLBERMANN: Before we get to the bin Laden tapes, let me ask you about this military investigation. The charges are amazing and stunning and horrifying. And the assumption would be that events like this, with Haditha or Abu Ghraib are the proverbial recruiting posters for al Qaeda. But a technical question, I guess. Why is it that bin Laden, or the other spokesman, never seem to specifically reference them, if they are recruiting aids to them, in a sense?

CRESSEY: Well, you'd think there'd be more of it, since they're trying to define the conflict as a war by the West against Islam. They did talked about Abu Ghraib a lot when it first broke. You saw many postings in the chat rooms and on the Internet, and in some of Zawahiri's statements, bin Laden's deputy.

But with Haditha now, this latest case, we haven't heard much, at least about Haditha, so far. Whether or not we see anything about this new case remains to be seen.

But, you know, they've have done their best to try and propagandize what's gone on in Iraq. And they've had some success with it. So the question becomes, what else will they use to try and further justify their view of how events have taken place?

OLBERMANN: We'll come back to this in a moment with our next guest. But let's turn now to the latest tapes, tape or tapes, from bin Laden. Do we think that he's aiming this message at an American audience, or is it - or is this primarily an Islamic audience that he's shooting at?

CRESSEY: I think he's overexposed more than anything else. I think it's predominantly a Islamic audience. When he talks about how he supported Zarqawi and how he gave Zarqawi guidance, and that was as much aimed at the local jihadists in Iraq, as well as the broader jihadist community.

Now, if he'll send out a message talking about Somalia, referring again to Darfur and Sudan, again, it's part of this broader defining events around the globe according to their perspective on the war against Islam, and the need for the jihadist community to support all of these events going on, and as - it's all part and parcel of al Qaeda's the broader strategy. At least, that's how bin Laden is trying to define it.

OLBERMANN: The praise for Zarqawi seems especially interesting, Roger. It's convenient, it's helpful, certainly, to bin Laden, but also maybe, in a sense, to the Bush administration. We discussed this when Zarqawi was killed. Analyst after analyst had said Zarqawi's stock with al Qaeda had been sinking. Jim Dunegan (ph) even put on his Strategy Page Web site the day before Zarqawi was killed that it would - shouldn't be a surprise to anybody if Zarqawi met with an accident or got himself martyred for the cause. Was this tape the official martyrdom of Zarqawi?

CRESSEY: I think it's part of it. It's a follow-up to what Zawahiri said in his tape a couple weeks ago. It's very self-serving on the part of al Qaeda's leadership to associate themselves with Zarqawi, because, frankly, Zarqawi's group is doing more to conduct jihad than al Qaeda's leadership is right now. Bin Laden and Zawahiri are more propagandists and ideologues spreading a message. But they have not conducted operations that have been directly tied to them in several years.

So when you see what's on the chat rooms and on the Internet, there is some pressure building on these guys to conduct an attack, and to justify their supposed leadership. And that simply has not happened. So to the extent they can associate with what's going on in Iraq, they're going to do so, because it supports their broader goals.

OLBERMANN: Finally, let me ask you about the op-ed piece that you wrote with Richard Clarke for "The New York Times" today, about the fallout over "The Times"' government on the government bank-tapping story. You and Mr. Clarke have probably forgotten more about going after terrorist money than most of us will ever learn. But just because a lot of Americans might not have known that financial wire transfers were being monitored, is it, in your opinion, realistic to believe that the terrorists were not aware of it either?

CRESSEY: Terrorists have known for some time that we're using the traditional financial institutions to monitor and track their money. So this is not going to be a revelation to them. And matter of fact, "The New York Times" in 2003 talked about the SWIFT program as part of the reason why Hambali was captured. So it's not new news. And I think, Keith, the interesting question is, why "The Times" trumpeted it on page one, because there wasn't a whole lot of new information there. That's a different issue altogether, though.

OLBERMANN: False advertising more than false patriotism -

CRESSEY: That's right.

OLBERMANN:... especially given that the SWIFT organization talked about their own cooperation with that system as well.

CRESSEY: Exactly.

OLBERMANN: MSNBC terrorism analyst Roger Cressey. As always, sir, great thanks. Have a good weekend.

CRESSEY: All right, you too, Keith. Happy Fourth.

OLBERMANN: Meantime, one avenue of speculation as to why the other two newspapers who have printed that bank-tapping story escaped the wrath of the Bush administration, that at least one of them, "The Wall Street Journal," had been shielded by its notoriously right-wing editorial board, "The Journal"'s opinion-page editors today not only sharing that opinion, but now chastising "The New York Times" just as vehemently as the White House did, "The Journal," in today's editions, highlighting what it says is a key difference between its story and the one "The Times" ran, that its report was based on declassified information that was given by officials at the Treasury Department only after those officials had tried unsuccessfully to stop "The Times" from publishing its own report.

That was the nice part. "Journal" opinion editors also managed to make their own reporter look like a government shill, and they took a few potshots at the Grey Lady of 43rd Street's alleged partisan bent, quote, "On issue after issue, it has become clear that 'The Times' believes the U.S. is not really at war, and in any case, the Bush administration lacks the legitimacy to wage it."

"Times" publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Junior, responding in an interview with the trade publication "Editor and Publisher," saying, quote, "I for one do not believe 'Journal' editors and reporters were unaware of the importance of what they were publishing, nor oblivious to the impact such a story would have."

To continue to judge what that impact is, let's call in our very own Richard Wolffe, also senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.

Richard, good evening. Thanks for your time.


Keith, good to be with you.

OLBERMANN: Adding in the resolution passed yesterday in the House condemning the media for exposing what are described as, if aren't perhaps really, national security secrets, is it now safe to say that the media, maybe "The New York Times" all by itself, is the early front-runner for the status of the political issue in the upcoming elections?

WOLFFE: Well, I'm not sure it's the issue. The war is the top subject here. But we are clearly one of the best footballs they have to kick around, the media collectively here. And, you know, I was with the president in St. Louis the other day when he tore into "The New York Times" very explicitly and pretty aggressively. And it's a huge applause line for his base. I mean, he had people - these are Republican donors - jumping to their feet and cheering about this.

Of course, it's an attack on "The New York Times" itself. It's an attack on New York culture. It goes down well in the heartland. And you have to remember here that this is at a time when the party itself is not united on a whole range of subject, notably immigration, but also the war in Iraq. So it's a really good rallying cry for the president and the White House.

OLBERMANN: Yes, and New York is also code for half a dozen other things to the far right conservative base that we can skip and talk about at another time.

But back to this topic, are other news organizations, do you think, running scared now? The editions today of "USA Today," they said they could no longer confirm the report they had that BellSouth and Verizon had directly contracted with the NSA to provide those bulk calling records for its database. Has there been a chilling effect?

WOLFFE: Well, I don't know the backstory of the "USA Today" story. It doesn't seem to me, as a reader, that they have backed away from the underlying premise of that story. And, in fact, from my own reporting, I know that, you know, the administration, at the highest levels, had many opportunities to say that this story was wrong, and believe me, they're quick to point out when we're wrong on a whole range of stories, but especially when it comes to national security.

They didn't do that this time. I don't think "USA Today" has backed away from the thrust of its story. And to that extent, it's still out there. The program has been confirmed by many, many people.

It seemed to me like this was a technical thing, and "USA Today" was being rigorous and careful, and that's what we need to do in the media.


Richard, back to these allegations that we started with, with Roger Cressey about the U.S. troops in Iraq, five soldiers, as many of them under investigation for stalking and rape and murder and a coverup. Might incidents like that explain why we no longer hear the administration talking about the fighting for the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, or the Arab street, or any of the psychological warfare, or friendship efforts that we were supposedly undertaking there?

WOLFFE: Well, essentially, the battle for hearts and minds has been handed over to the Iraqi government. They're going to do it a whole lot better than the coalition ever did. They speak the language, they understand the culture, and a lot of the hearts and minds agenda was based around reconstruction. And that fell into a whole huge amount of disrepute because of corruption, and most obviously because of security problems.

So the hearts and minds stuff just isn't really happening anymore. And I don't know that it's because of these atrocities. I mean, really, the - and they are allegations at this stage and investigations. But really, Abu Ghraib was the level that was really set here.

OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of "Newsweek" and MSNBC. Great thanks for your time. We'll talk to you soon.


OLBERMANN: A rather bizarre collision of the worlds of politics and entertainment today, President Bush taking the prime minister of Japan to Graceland in a first-of-its-kind pilgrimage. Well, it's the first of its kind for a Japanese prime minister. Lots of folk go to Graceland.

And from the king of rock and roll to the queen of rocky endings. Star Jones just does not want to talk about it, and she'll stop just as soon as she finishes this 20-minute monologue to Al Roker.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: The cultural peccadilloes of world leaders have often impacted our world's history. Hitler thought he understood the English better than the English did. As late as 1941, he was certain they'd cut a deal with him. Boy, was he surprised. Often, though, obsessions with aspects of another nation's life are neither historic nor important, just weird.

Our fourth story on the Countdown, Kim Jong Il revels in American movies, especially Westerns, and the Japanese prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, is crazy about Elvis Presley. So on his visit to the country this week, Mr. Koizumi wanted to see the president, of course, but hot damn, he had to go to Graceland, with Mr. Bush in tow.

Our correspondent Bob Faw, who has a little of that Elvis hair thing going on, joined them.


BOB FAW, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ordinarily, the only dignitaries on parade in Memphis are ducks at the Peabody Hotel. So when, for the first time, a sitting president and a world leader toured the home of Elvis Presley, in this land of red, white, and blue barbecue, it was treated almost like the second coming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a universal language, and it is Elvis.

FAW: Oh, did Elvis' number-one fan in Japan make that clear. In a most un-prime ministerial way, he swiveled his pelvis, he even tried to croon like Elvis.


FAW: Mind you, the Elvis bug has bitten other Japanese here. Jimmy Ishi (ph), who runs six high-end Japanese restaurants in town, not only wears and sells Elvis clothes...

JIMMY ISHI, RESTAURANT OWNER: We call it a neo-retro.

FAW:... with customers, Ishi too has been known to burst into Elvis renditions.

ISHI: Well, if I have some sake, yes, I do.

FAW: None of this mania surprises Elvis's first and long-time tailor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, thank you very much, thank you.

Because this was a (INAUDIBLE). And I told him Lanski.

FAW: With the magic of yesterday, says Lanski (ph), still going strong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's big anyway, all over. That he is, yes, he is. Dave, everybody likes him, Chinese, Japanese, all of them, anybody.

FAW: So this visit was more than a reward for a friend who has staunchly supported Mr. Bush.

PROF. ALAN SCHNEIDER, NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY: A pilgrimage to Graceland is sort of like paying homage to American royalty. Presidents come and go, Elvis is forever.

FAW: It also revealed something in politicians we don't normally see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, he seem like one of us, he's just a average, normal guy.

FAW: In a visit where the kingdoms of sushi and of Elvis' trademark peanut butter-and-banana sandwich were bridged.


FAW: Bob Faw, NBC News, Memphis.


OLBERMANN: By the way, Elvis is alive, and we know where he is.

That's him. (INAUDIBLE) rotation splash.

And the belly flop of television exits, the surprise announcement by Star Jones. What we're hearing is her not having a catfight with Barbara Walters.

Highlights, if any, ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Ever heard people talk about the Tunguska asteroid? It hit on this day 98 years ago in a remote Siberian forest near the town of Tunguska. Apparently the thing blew up somewhere in the atmosphere, and that's why the impact force, the equivalent of 15 million tons of TNT, only destroyed about 30 square miles of trees. The location was also convenient for us. If it had hit, say, New York City, it would killed, oh, a couple hundred thousand people.

On the occasion of that happy thought and anniversary, let's play Oddball.

And we begin with that rare video of that Tunguska asteroid - No, I'm sorry. That's just a fat guy at the big annual belly flop contest in Denver. You know, it hurts a lot more at that altitude. It's a radio station deal. Fifteen contestants, traveling from as far away as across town, battle for the title of Flopper King of Denver, one of those rare sports in which avoirdupois provides a distinct advantage. There's just more belly for the flopping.

It's this or sumo wrestling for these guys. The big winner was Mr. Greg Hoffmann (ph), whose lifetime of training and constant snacking pays off with a trip to fabulous Cancun, Mexico. Oh, he's going to fit right in.

Checking Oddball traffic, it's bumper to bumper in the Folsom, California, historic district. If you must travel, put some plastic bags on your shoes, because it's getting ugly out there, the 46th Annual Folsom Cattle Drive moseying down Main Street to kick off the big Fourth of July weekend rodeo, a few dozen bulls getting a police escort down Main Street, making the most of the royal treatment on a Friday afternoon.

Because if you know why rodeo bulls jump around like that, you know they'll end the weekend with a pair of Folsom blues, if you catch my drift.

And of course, then they took them out back for some target practice.

Just kidding. The extra-special end-of-the-month bonus edition of Oddball.

And after the explosion comes the explanation. Star Jones tells all, and all, and all, and all to Al Roker. Please, stop doing interviews. We'll get you your job back.

Those stories ahead.

Now here are Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, an unnamed letter carrier in Erlingen in Germany. The 26-year-old woman had apparently bitten off more than she could chew. She told authorities she felt physically overwhelmed by the job, and that, that's why there were more than 1,900 undelivered letters stashed in her apartment.

Number two, Barry Glinton of Boynton Beach, Florida. Two years ago, his power boat started taking on water about a mile off shore, and he was rescued by Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission officers Paul Alber (ph) and John Reed (ph). Day before yesterday, Mr. Glinton got stuck in exactly the same place, water coming on board, and he was rescued by Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission officers Paul Alber and John Reed.

And number one, old pal Jose Canseco announcing he's making a comeback with an independent baseball team, the San Diego Surf Dogs as a combination designated hitter and knuckleball-throwing relief pitcher. Phoned by the media for comment, the call went straight through to Canseco's voicemail, wherein we heard this, "Hello. Jose Canseco. I have lost my cell phone. If you can, please leave a number when you call. Thank you." In a time of chaos and flux, it's nice to see that some things and some people never change.


OLBERMANN: How can we miss you, Star Jones, if you won't go away? She has told Al Roker on the "Today" show that she is done talking about her tumultuous departure from "The View." Our third story on the Countdown, of course she did that telling in an interview that I believe I saw still going on as I entered Rockefeller Center about three hours ago.

Ms. Jones-Reynolds also insists she does not want "catfight" to erupt with Barbara Walters. One would gently point out to her that that train has pretty much left the station, as well. More of Ms. Jones talking about what she's no longer talking about, and catfighting with somebody she doesn't want to have a catfight with, with Mr. Roker.


AL ROKER, "TODAY" SHOW: Let's go back to Tuesday. You make this statement, that you're going to be leaving "The View" and in watching it on camera, it looked like your co-hosts were very supportive, you're holding hands, you're talking. Barbara Walters has the audience give you a standing ovation. What happened when the show ended and the cameras stopped?

STAR JONES-REYNOLDS, FMR. "THE VIEW" CO-HOST: Well, interestingly enough, when the cameras stop, I did what I've done for nine years. I went down to my morning meeting, the postmortem we called it, and I prepared for the next day's show. My.

ROKER: What did they say to you?

JONES-REYNOLDS: My producers all lined up, they said, Star we're so sorry. I'm sorry that this occurred, to be honest with you. I didn't speak to Barbara and to Bill. And I have not spoken to Barbara or Bill since the end of the show at 12:01 on Tuesday.

ROKER: When were you actually told your contract would not be renewed and who told you?

JONES-REYNOLDS: I was told in April, on April 21, and to a lot of people's surprise, my agent was called and my husband was called by my agent, and he felt very strongly that he should be the one to get on a plane, come fly out, and tell me himself. I was never told by my producers or my friends from nine years.

ROKER: So in other words, Barbara Walters nor Bill Getty (ph), the executive producers, told you.

JONES-REYNOLDS: Never. Absolutely not.

ROKER: How did that make you feel?

JONES-REYNOLDS: Well, you know, I understood the business decision. It didn't make you feel good, but a friend mine just told me this morning, that after 30 years of being a teacher in Michigan, she got a pink slip. I've decided to look at it as a business decision and, Al, today is the last day I'm going to discuss this. I've made some mistakes. I have grown. I'm moving to the next part of my life and my career. I was a 40-year-old who was worried about getting married, I was caught in euphoria, and I don't think I took the viewers on the right journey with me. And I want to apologize for that.

ROKER: When you say - what mistakes did you make? Are you talking about the wedding?

JONES-REYNOLDS: Yes. If you think about that - if you think about the wedding, I was a 40-year-old, who according to urban legend had a better chance of being kidnapped by a terrorist than getting married, and I was caught in the euphoria and I think I used, and some would say, abused my celebrity in planning the wedding. I had a good time. My husband said, Star, you don't want a wedding, you want a parade. And I don't think I really, fully understood the ramifications of that parade until the last year and a half.

ROKER: So if you had to do it again?

JONES-REYNOLDS: You know what, if I had to do it again, I would take my audience on the journey with me. I would be more humble and I would allow them to see the genuine character, who I am, which I hope they see right now.

ROKER: Brian Frons, the president of ABC Daytime gave us this statement.

"My only regret in the whole situation is that we didn't take care of this last November when her connection to viewers was at an all time low and I told Barbara we had to fire her. If we had done it then, there would be no connection to Rosie now."

So he's talking about November. What was the climate last November? Did you have any indication that your days were numbered, that you were on rocky ground with ABC?

JONES-REYNOLDS: I went to any executive producer and I asked him directly.

ROKER: Bill Getty (ph).

JONES-REYNOLDS: .right to his face, were the rumors - because there was stuff in tabloids and he directly told me no. If my job was in jeopardy, I wanted to know. And I should tell you that for the network that I love and the viewers that I served for nine years, to be subjected to these nasty back and forth documents that have been sent all around, trying to discredit me, after nine years, I think it's very sad.

ROKER: But he says he told you in November.

JONES-REYNOLDS: No. That is absolutely, categorically untrue. I never spoke to Brian Frons, to Barbara, or to Bill about my job being in jeopardy. As a matter of fact, the first time I was ever told - and I know the exact date - was April 21 - the first time.

ROKER: The first time?

JONES-REYNOLDS: The very first time. And within weeks, excuse me, within days I was told that Rosie was joining "The View."

ROKER: Do you think that at some point you will be able to sit across the table from Barbara and maybe have coffee and talk?

JONES-REYNOLDS: You know what, there is nothing that will ever, ever take away the amazing opportunity that she gave me. I got the privilege of sitting with the best journalists in the history of this business. I've learned so much from her. And I take that with me, constantly. I hold no animosity. And I think the best part about it is we're women executives. I don't think we should ever play in to the stereotype that women executives can differ business-wise, but not personally.

ROKER: So do you hope at some point you will have a relationship again with Barbara?

JONES-REYNOLDS: Well, I still have her in my heart, and according to what she said, she had me in hers.


OLBERMANN: If that wasn't enough Star for you, the whole interview, which lasted nearly 20 minutes, is on our website, A nice touch of synergy on "The View" this morning. Today's episode was taped before Star Jones left the show, the topic in honor of the new film, "The Devil Wears Prada" was getting fired by female bosses. Irony.

And how's this for irony? On the eve of the Tour de France, they guy who always played second fiddle to Lance Armstrong finds out he is out of the race. The world of cycling rocked by a huge drug scandal.

And were rocked by the fact that people keep employing David Hasselhoff. Hurt in Great Britain while in that country shooting a commercial. Details ahead, they involve shaving cream, some glass, and possibly a chandelier. But first, here are Countdown's "Top 3 Sound Bites" of this day.


JAY LENO, TALK SHOW HOST: And more problems today for "The View." You see what happened, the sound went out on the show. Here's Barbara trying to figure it out.

BARBARA WALTERS, "THE VIEW": Just before we went into commercial, we lost all sound. We don't know why it happened.

LENO: That's what it was.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A young Andy Griffith used to hang out here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mary, can you whistle the Andy Griffith theme? I've tried, I just can't do it. I can't whistle anymore. The sound just don't come out.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well I can't, I got my false teeth in.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's an Elvis fan. And I couldn't think of a better way to honor my friend than going to Graceland.

He's a pretty good Elvis singer.


I thought you were going to do 'Blue Suede Shoes."

Koizumi: It's like a dream - (SINGING) to dream - a dream come true.


OLBERMANN: A massive doping scandal wipes out the top two contenders and others on the eve of the Tour de France. A weather concern for the space shuttle. And all the karaoke cabdriver, cat stuck in a milk bottle, baseball manager losing his video you can possible handle, ahead here on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Kind of a tense time if you're awaiting the start of two of the holiday weekends big events, the launching of the shuttle Discovery and what might be inclement weather tomorrow afternoon, or the start of the annual Tour de France bicycle races themselves beset by a drug scandal that led to the banishment of two of the pre-race favorites, today.

Our No. 2 story on the Countdown, keep your fingers crossed for shuttles and cyclists. The cyclists first. With Lance Armstrong having retired from the Tour de France, this was supposed to be the year that Germany's Jan Ullrich or Italy's Ivan Basso were supposed to step up, instead they will sit down. They and seven other prominent racers pulled out of the event today by their team sponsors on the eve of the first race, because they had been linked to a scandal in a Spanish race in which performance enhancing drugs and dubious blood transfusions allegedly took place.

Not doping, but weather the concern when it comes to launch another space shuttle. But the term calculated risk is taking on added resonance tonight, since some foam could still come off the shuttle's fuel tank during liftoff. That's what damaged the Columbia in 2003 leading to its disastrous and fatal reentry.

The shuttle program has hardly come roaring back. The only launch since the Columbia tragedy was nearly a year ago. At the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, our correspondent is Tom Costello.


TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The crew was at the Cape, Discovery is on the pad, and the clock is ticking, even though NASA's chief engineer and the chief of safety have both voted not to launch. But the in man in charge says for the sake of the program it's worth the risk.

Michael GRIFFIN, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: I'm willing, as administrator, looking at the whole picture, I'm willing to take a little bit of programmatic risk now and notice I did not say crew risk.

COSTELLO: This is what terrifies the safety engineers, a piece of foam fallen off the external fuel tank and punching a hole in the shuttle. That's what brought down Columbia in 2003, killing all seven crew members on re-entry. It happened again last summer, but the foam missed the shuttle. Engineers have since removed 35 pounds of foam, but they still expect small piece to fall off the fuel tank on liftoff. Still, the crew insists they're ready.

STEPHANIE WILSON, DISCOVERY ASTRONAUT: As astronauts we all know that space flight is risky. There's Rick inherit in driving to work or walking across the street and so there's risk incurred everyday.

COSTELLO: Once again, the crew will inspect the shuttle for damage once they're in space.

Commander Steve Lindsey is convinced the shuttle has never been safer.

STEVE LINDSEY, DISCOVERY COMMANDER: It doesn't mean it's safe like a commercial airliner. They're different animals, and they will be for the next 50, 100 years, probably.

COSTELLO: But critics say after losing two shuttles and 14 crew members already, launching now makes little sense.

JOHN PIKE, NASA CRITIC: I think the burden is on NASA at this point to demonstrate that they understand the shuttle well enough to fly it and their track record over the last several years isn't terribly impressive.

COSTELLO: NASA is anxious to retire the shuttle just as soon as the space station is finished, but that will take another 16 missions.


OLBERMANN: On to our roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs." And if you don't want your home raided this holiday weekend, make sure you don't have any illegal obtained photos of Brangelina. The FBI and local police stormed into a home in Westfield, Massachusetts and ceased photographs of a baby shower held by Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. According to the celebrity website, the photographs had evidently been downloaded from the digital camera of Jolie's brother, James Haven. He had taken the pictures in Namibia when he got back to Los Angeles, his camera broke, so he took it to the Best Buy store, which then sent it to a camera repair shop. Two employees there allegedly sent out an email with some of the pictures fielding offers from would-be buyers. The two men have not been arrested, but are under investigation.

Hey, Mr. Jolie's brother, let's suck it up here next time and not leave the photos of the baby shower at Best Buy.

Meanwhile at the end of the "American Idol" series, did you wonder why David Hasselhoff was crying? Turns out it might possibly have bee anticipatory. Hasselhoff is out of the hospital tonight after what can only be described as freak shaving accident.

He was at the Sanderson Hotel in London. His spokeswoman saying, "He was getting ready to shave and bent done. But when he stood up, David hit his head on a glass shelf and it shattered." The Baywatch Star severed a tendon in his hand, but he's fine now and will soon resume work filming a commercial. The BBC version of the report differs slightly, saying Hasselhoff hit his head on a chandelier - wait, he was a chandelier shaving?

More bizarre, though, is that he mentioned that Hasselhoff had canceled his debut Christmas pantomime role playing Captain Hook in "Peter Pan" at a London theater.

Whether from the accident or having to pass on that Christmas pantomime role of a lifetime, Mr. Hasselhoff now has a real reason to cry.

You know, Dave, if you have video of you up on the chandelier shaving or standing up into a glass shelf, send it in, we'll be happy to use it on the next "Oddball Plays of the Month." This edition, of course, is already chockfull and ready to play, next.

But first, it's time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for "Worst Person in the World."

The bronze tonight to Eddie Griffin, of basketball's Minnesota Timber Wolves when he crashed his Cadillac SUV into a parked car last March, driving without a license, by the way. He told reporters he had been distracted because he had dropped his cell phone into his lap and was reaching for it. Not exactly, says the owner of the parked car in a suit now filed against Mr. Griffin. The suit claims Griffin was drunk and enjoying a pornographic DVD on a television mounted on his dashboard as he drove. Brings a new definition to the term "carjacking."

Our runner up, radio harpy Melanie Morgan, again, not satisfied with her terroristic threats to have "New York Times" executive editor, Bill Keller killed, executed for treason, she now says even that would be insufficient that Keller or any other newspaper editor who leaks "national security classified information" "is to be locked in a steel cage with the family members of slain troop members who would happily deliver the ultimate punishment of death and then sent to the hottest corner of hell."

OK, how about a compromise? We'll just make the accused listen to your show for an hour.

But the winners, E.D. Hill and Brian Kilmeade, two of the nitwits on in the morning of FOX News. Each suggesting in dead earnest that the United States create a new office of censorship to monitor and punish American newspapers and Americans who do things that the government doesn't like. Kilmeade went to far as to say that you can't have both the law and survival.

You guys do realize that you're advocating exactly what al-Qaeda advocates, right? E.D. Hill and Brian Kilmeade, today's "Worst Persons in the World."


OLBERMANN: We didn't plan it this way, we did not think, hey, the "Oddballs' Plays of the Month" for June will run the Friday night before the Fourth of July, so let's load it up all month with fireworks, cars blowing up, washing machines blowing up, safety mannequins blowing up.

In our No. 1 story in the Countdown tonight, it just worked out that way. Kind of unintentional Independence Day solute to 'splosions. Roll your tapes at home because here are the "Oddball Plays of the Month."


OLBERMANN: We begin in South Korea. We begin in (INAUDIBLE) Germany. We begin in Miami, Florida. We begin in (INAUDIBLE) Wales where it's partly cloudy with a chance of cha-ching!

We begin at Paul's Liquor Store in Fort Worth, Texas with a rare glimpse of a master cat burglar in action.

We begin in Bogota, Columbia for rare footage of the most sacred events, the passing of Juan Valdez. It was an emotional ceremony, but a necessary in the endless cycle of a coffee mascot's life. The famous hat handed over to the next generation, and for a moment, the future and the past joined together in an uncomfortable and slightly too long embrace. For the old Juan Valdez, hands over the keys to his ass and then wanders off into the bean fields to get a gig as a big talking drumstick at a local chicken restraint or to possibly to get in line to become the next Dr. Who.

But it's not all frog weddings and draught in India, there's a booming entertainment industry as well. And this week the entire country is celebrating India's first-ever superhero movie, "Krish" (ph). No doubt about it, "Krish" is the new biggest, baddest super-cool superhero around.

And you were worried about the new Superman, huh?

To West Palm Beach Florida where police have a weapon in the war against red light runners - meet Officer Delicious.

It's Jet Car and this thing is going to take off like - give it a second Jet Car needs to warm up. Here we do Jet Car, you got it, you got it, come one, baby. There it goes - does Jet Car actually ever moves? Then, why in the hell are we showing it. Stupid Jet Car!

To (INAUDIBLE) Indonesia and the lush greens and friendly fairways in the Mariki (ph) golf course. You'll love the stunning design, the peaceful atmosphere, the beautiful landscape including that smoldering volcano. Run for your lives!

Washington, D.C. where two young girls in a park seem to be setting fire to one another. Who very disturbing. No wait! It's the big annual fireworks safety demonstration. Yay safety! And I don't care how good-looking you are, sir, you can't just hold the thing in your hand.

And we're not just about promoting dangerous behavior here on "Oddball." In fact, here's touching feature story about a small child riding around on his pet 30 foot deadly python. Anba (ph) say, "I love the python. I love the python like my sister." So cute, especially considering the python ate his sister. Oh no, no, I made that up. She was a half sister. No, no, no, no, no, well, she's now a half sister.

Kiyomori, the samurai robot. Look at him samurai!

Look at them row!

And look at them run!

A cat climbing in and out of a bottle. Look at him go. It's a cat in a bottle, everybody.

It's Jeffery Ton (ph), the singing cabdriver of Singapore.

(singing in foreign language)

OLBERMANN: Driver! Driver! driver! You just missed the turn for the airport. Driver!

You ready for some soccer? Parrots with World Cup fever.

Look at the penguins, they can play soccer too. Yes, indeed. Look at 'em soccer.

And we begin with a baseball highlight from Lexington, Kentucky that rapidly turns into an exhibit at a sanity hearing. Culic (ph) had already been ejected and minor league umpires aren't allowed to carry tazers, so he stormed around for awhile, stopping to pour water on home plate and hurl a few bats on the filed.

A new segment that we hope becomes a regular feature here on Countdown. :Keith Olbermann's America."

And we begin in America's heartland, Wyandotte in the upper northeast corner of Oklahoma. It's gun country, sure, and there's something romantic about heading out with grandpa's .22 and picking tin cans off a dusty fence rail.


BEN LEPRAIRIE, U.S. MARINE: Oh yeah, I'm having a blast.


OLBERMANN: That'll show those Chinese, Germans, whoever it is we're shottin' at. I don't care.

If you'd like to continue holiday weekend with more laughs, say a whole hour of laughs, you are in luck. Monday July 3, that's next Monday if you've forgotten your calendar, the "Oddball Extravaganza." Wake up to "Oddball," eat dinner while "Oddball" is on, go to bed watching "Oddball": 9:00 a.m., 8:00 p.m., Midnight all Eastern Time. And if you lose electricity on Monday, you are still in luck because you can see this special at 9:00 a.m. Eastern on Tuesday, July 4. If you can't make any of those viewings, well then to hell with you!

I didn't mean that. Have a nice weekend. It's been a long week here. That's Countdown for this, the 1,156th day since the declaration of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq.

This reminder, join again at Midnight Eastern, tonight, 11:00 p.m. Central, 9:00 Pacific for the late edition of Countdown. Until then, a special presentation of "Lockup: Riverbend."

I'm Keith Olbermann, goodnight and good luck.


Thursday, June 29, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for June 29

Guests: John Dean, Dana Milbank, Michael Musto

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

Will the administration now call the Supreme Court the "New York Times" of the judiciary? Justices Kennedy, Brier, Ginsberg, Souter, and Stevens rule the military trials at Gitmo are unconstitutional, not authorized by any act of Congress, violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice, violating the Geneva Conventions.

The staggered president says he will find a way forward and try some of the detainees in the civilian courts.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will protect the people, and at the same time, conform with the findings of the Supreme Court.


OLBERMANN: Thanks. Thanks for going along with the Constitution.

John Dean on the law, Dana Milbank on the political neutering of the president.

Fourteen feet above flood stage, the Delaware River in New Jersey, (INAUDIBLE) 200,000 at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, dodge a bullet, the Susquehanna keeps within its banks.

Remember this? The Oklahoma full auto shoot and its special features.

Sniper match, assault rifle. Kill the car. Kill the washing machine. We've shown you what this was, now the reporter who covered it will tell us what it was like.

And two pictures. Who's the guy on the cover of "Harper's" - Oh, Britney Spears? Does this conflict in any way with her announcement that she wants privacy?

And what's - oh, that's comedian Rush Limbaugh and Chloe from "24."

Got Viagra?

All that and more, now on Countdown.




OLBERMANN: Good evening.

"Whether ours shall continue to be a government of laws and not men," said Archibald Cox, the night 33 years ago he was fired as special Watergate prosecutor on the direct instructions of Richard Nixon, "is now for Congress and ultimately the American people."

Our fifth story on the Countdown this evening, the late Mr. Cox could have also mentioned the Supreme Court, which has today reminded this president of the United States that this is still and, perhaps surprisingly, a government of laws and not men.

The court, with decisive votes supplied by three justices appointed by Presidents Bush senior, Ford, and Reagan, ruling that this president overstepped his authority in ordering military war trials for Guantanamo Bay detainees, the court concluding its current term this morning by issuing the president a major legal blow, and the first true blowback against his belief that after 9/11 he had essentially carte blanche, ruling that trying Guantanamo detainees before special military commissions violates U.S. and international law, and even U.S. military law, rejecting the administration argument that the resolution passed by Congress authorizing the use of force after 9/11 somehow also authorized the tribunals.

The court heard the case of one of the first to be arrested in Afghanistan after the attacks, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, former driver and bodyguard to Osama bin Laden, sent to Gitmo four years ago, later put on trial before one of those special military tribunals ordered by the president.

The five-member majority on decision, Justices Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsberg, Brier, the three dissenters, Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito. Chief Justice Roberts sat this one out, because he had ruled on this issue in the president's favor while serving on a lower court, writing the majority opinion, Justice John Paul Stevens saying, "We conclude that the military commission convened to try Hamdan lacks power to proceed because its structure and procedures violate both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Conventions," the president obviously caught off guard by the ruling, getting only what he called by a drive-by briefing before facing the media, he and his press secretary looking for the bright side, if not, perhaps, the loopholes.


BUSH: Well, I haven't had a chance to fully review what the court said, Jerry, (INAUDIBLE) - I wish I had, or I could have given you a better answer. I, as I say, we take this, the finding seriously. And, you know, I, as I understand it, now, don't, please don't hold me to this, that there is a way forward with military tribunals in working with the United States Congress, as I understand certain senators have already been out expressing their desire to address what the Supreme Court found, and we will work with the Congress. I want to find a way forward.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What the Supreme Court has not said, it has not said you can't hold them, it hasn't said you can't try them, it hasn't had (INAUDIBLE) - hasn't said you have to send them back. So what you do have are matters of procedure. And, no, I don't think it weakens the president's hand.


OLBERMANN: Let's now call in the White House counsel under Richard Nixon, John Dean, also author of "Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush," and a commentator at the Web site

John, welcome back.


OLBERMANN: In the simplest of terms, the case appears to have been a test of the president's rather broad theory of his own powers in wartime. With this decision, did the Supreme Court just say that he failed that test?

DEAN: Well, it certainly said that he'd failed the test as far as his theory about how to proceed with trying these people without due process. That obviously is going to have be to revised and off the board. I don't think that necessarily they removed the potential of military tribunals, which may indeed be a good idea if they're properly structure.

But they certainly are going to have to have some due process. I think the sleeper, Keith, is the application of the Geneva Convention that the court held in their opinion.

OLBERMANN: I was surprised by that too, that an international law was addressed by the Supreme Court, the international conventions, in any event. What do you see as the deeper meaning in that?

DEAN: Well, you know, the question is, you always have a debate when you have a four-member panel like this. You don't have the full court. And you have four people in the court holding that something is applicable, but they did very clearly say that, in at least four of the justices, that the Geneva Conventions Common Article 3 is applicable to al Qaeda.

Now this is not the quaint, antiquated convention that Mr. Gonzales once classified it. It is very applicable law, certainly as far as trying people and dealing with them. Now, whether it has a broader application or not, whether it applies to the standards of interrogation, that's the next big issue, I think, but that's harder to get standing into the court to test.

OLBERMANN: The dissenters in this ruling seem angry. Justice Thomas took an unprecedented step. He read some of his dissenting opinion aloud. Justice Scalia said he wasn't even sure the court had the right to rule, to overrule the president on this. What was the meat of their argument?

DEAN: Well, it's interesting that there were three separate dissents, all of them joined each other's dissent. Scalia, as you said, he really tested - he didn't think the court had jurisdiction, because there had been a detainee treatment act that had tried to strip jurisdiction away from the Supreme Court. The majority dispensed with that, said, Listen, the statute doesn't work, certainly not in this case. We're not going to rule on the greater issue of whether constitutionally, the Congress can take away our appellate power in habeas corpus.

But anyway, that was - upset Scalia. Thomas, who defers greatly to the president and believes he should have unfettered powers with regard to military matters and foreign affairs, in essence said, Hey, the - we should just not be in this business of trying to tell the president how to try these cases. Alito wrote a very technical opinion. He said, for example, even if Article Three does apply to these commissions, he still thinks the president had set it up properly.

So that was a much more technical - he made a much more technical ruling on the matter.

OLBERMANN: If, as Justice Brier wrote, that the court's conclusion ultimately rests upon a single ground, Congress has not issued the executive a blank check, might the president return to Congress, ask for the bank check? He's hinted as much. But what would happen if it went back to court? Would a blank check signed by Congress here have been - have gotten through - gotten past this Supreme Court, do you think?

DEAN: I'm not sure it would. You certainly are going to have some minimum requirements, the court made very clear, as far as due process. I don't think also, backing up just a little further, that the president could get a blank check today from the Congress, even from his own party. We've had people like John McCain and Chuck Hagel and a number of the moderates who just don't want to give this president a blank check in this area.

So that, I think, is not potential. But I think they will help him fashion something where he can go forward and deal with this.

OLBERMANN: Legally, any idea where the detainees at Gitmo go now?

DEAN: I think they're going to - Well, (INAUDIBLE) - we only have 10 of them, as I understand, that have been charged with anything. A great number of them, some 350, they don't know what to do with. This decision doesn't really change the status of any of them. It puts Hamdan, for example, back at base one and starting all over. So it really doesn't change much as a practical matter, and I don't think it will influence the president's decision as to whether he keeps it open or closed, based on this decision.

OLBERMANN: More impact here, perhaps, than at Gitmo.

John Dean, the White House counsel to President Nixon, author of "Worse Than Watergate." As always, sir, our greatest thanks for your perspective and your time.

DEAN: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: From the extraordinary legal implications to something potentially even bigger, the political implications.

I'm joined now by the national political reporter of "The Washington Post," now an MSNBC political analyst, Dana Milbank.

Thanks for your time, Dana.


Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Given how strongly the president believes in this concept of his wartime powers, how aggressively he pursued their acquisition, would it be fair to say that he's probably stunned right now by how completely the Supreme Court neutered him on this one key point?

MILBANK: Well, this depends on how insular the president is. He should not be stunned. Many of his own lawyers had told people outside, they told me, that they thought the - they were going too far, and they were going to get slapped down here. So presumably, he was getting some of that advice inside.

Instead, he decided to go with people like David Addington, the chief of staff to the vice president, who believe in this all-powerful unitary executive.

The president was - this isn't the first time this has happened. They were knocked down two years ago in the Hamdi case. Now we have the Hamdi and the Hamdan, the Tweedledee and Tweedledum, if you will, both of them saying, You don't have a blank check here, sir, and you've got to do something other.

So if he didn't get the message the first time, then I suppose he would be stunned by this.

OLBERMANN: Prime Minister Howard of Australia has just made a statement that indicates, according to the Associated Press out of Sydney, that the U.S. must quickly find an alternative to military commissions for terror suspects, which takes us back to a point that I raised with John Dean, the possibility, if not the probability, of Mr. Bush going back to Congress on this issue to try again. John had some doubts. Is it a fight he could win? Is it a fight the Republicans might turn to their advantage, because that had that prospect of putting the Democrats on the defensive on counterterrorism all over again?

MILBANK: Yes, I don't have many doubts about that. I think Congress is eager, if not to give him a blank check, they'll, you know, they'll let him fill in the amount. But it's very clear that this Congress wants a little bit of face saving. What they were objecting to is not so much the program itself, but that they weren't being consulted on it. Same thing with the national security eavesdropping arrangement. It's not that they object just to the program, they just want to be kept in the loop on this.

Already lawmakers have come forward and said they - Arlen Specter today introduced legislation already. So it's going to - it's quite clear. And Dan Bartlett, the president's communications guy, is already saying they're willing to say that people who (INAUDIBLE) this want terrorists to be released out into the open. So they're willing to play some dirty pool here.

OLBERMANN: So we're going to have a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on this, Armed Services Committee hearings as well. But the idea that the Senate and House are involved now, is that potentially as much of a blow to the president and his perception of his role and what he's supposed to be doing in this country as the actual ruling relating to Gitmo? Is just the process that we've talked about as dangerous to him?

MILBANK: Well, it's not necessarily dangerous politically. But it's definitely going to be a change of his mindset. And this happened even predating September 11 with the energy task force and other efforts to just keep Congress out of the loop, not being briefed, not getting officials up there on this. I - presumably, that message is beginning to get through there.

And I think what they're finding is that Congress likes to make a lot of noise about this, but ultimately, if they just get the briefing they've asked for, they're pretty much going to do the president's bidding, and Specter at the Judiciary Committee has, he's written letters, he's held hearings, but ultimately, in every instance, he's come around to the administration's point of view.

OLBERMANN: And the last point, I'm a little confused. Obviously we thought that there would be a Republican slant permanently, or at least till the next vacancy in the Supreme Court, a rubber stamp, if you will, and that was not the case, as we had those three votes from three Republican presidential appointees. So I'm trying, I'm very confused in keeping all the events of the week together. How was the Supreme Court decision the fault of "The New York Times"?

MILBANK: Well, at least it wasn't "The Washington Post." Now, we have to remember, they have two new justices on the court, but they're not necessarily replacing justices who disagreed here. Now, certainly Alito is closer to the administration than O'Connor was. She opposed the administration in the original case.

The important justice is the next one. And, you know, the guy who wrote this, Justice Stevens, 86 years old. Still in good health, but he's the one that is - that could potentially change everything here. And that's what we're going to watch, whether he can hold out another couple of years.

OLBERMANN: Dana Milbank of "The Washington Post," and now MSNBC.

Great thanks for your time, Dana.

MILBANK: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Also here, the severe flooding in the Northeast. The bull's eye, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, catching a huge break. But communities along the Delaware River were not so lucky.

Dodging something much different in Oklahoma, all that automatic machine-gun fire. Don't worry, this is not an actual war in Oklahoma, it's just good, clean fun. Find out what it was like to attend the full auto shoot, where they blowed 'em up, they blowed 'em up real good.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Whether from the vagaries of Providence or luck, some communities in the Northeast, already flooded, have been spared the worst-case scenario, failing levees. Wednesday the worry was for Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, an evacuation ordered from the rising waters of the mighty Susquehanna. But the 41-foot flood wall there held.

Yet in our fourth story on the Countdown, it's now the Delaware River that is deemed the most dangerous. And though the waters may have crested there, the full damage has yet to be calculated.

Our correspondent in Yardley, Pennsylvania, is Lisa Daniels. Lisa?


Just a few minutes ago, it began to rain. And, in fact, as we were talking, I just felt a couple of drops. This is really the last thing this area needs, more water. But we're told that heavy thunderstorms are on the way. Of course, the biggest challenge now is getting rid of all this standing water, both here and in the Northeast.


DANIELS (voice-over): No matter where you look, over a 40,000-square-mile area, water, lots of it, flooded streets, swollen rivers, and moving debris. On the ground, muddy water everywhere. Today's concern, the Delaware River finally cresting late this afternoon, in many places several feet shy of flood stage.

GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: We were lucky to an extent, but the damage told to Pennsylvania is, at this moment, not calculable.

DANIELS: In Rickelsville (ph), Pennsylvania, walking became an art form, a combination of wading and swimming. Kimberly Weeder (ph) could do little but watch the water swirl right through her house.

KIMBERLY WEEDER, RICKELSVILLE RESIDENT: If it rains more, then I'll be doing a lot of crying.

DANIELS: Binghamton, New York, saw the worst flooding in that city's history, the estimated damage in the millions, according to the New York governor's office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Basically, it looks like if you took a dollhouse and dropped it in a swimming pool, that's what it looks like.

DANIELS: The popular tourist destination of New Hope, Pennsylvania, looked more like a ghost town, the only big attraction, the flood itself, not the holiday weekend this antique shop owner was hoping for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most of the businesses lost quite a bit of business.

DANIELS: Trenton, New Jersey, witnessed the worst flooding since the great floods of 1955 made headlines. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, had braced for the worst but was spared a disaster. Today, the mandatory evacuation order was lifted, 200,000 evacuees allowed to return to their homes.


DANIELS: And Keith, even after all the water is cleared, officials still have a big job ahead of them. They've got to clear the mud, the debris, the oil, the gas, anything that's in this water. This is a neighborhood. There are homes here, there are businesses, over to my right there's a gas station. So this project is not going to just take days, it could take weeks, it could take months, Keith.

OLBERMANN: And that's after the waters stop rising. What is being done in the interim, Lisa?

DANIELS: Well, actually, officials tell us that FEMA is sending about 90 trucks this way. Originally, they were supposed to go to Massachusetts, but we're told that Pennsylvania authorities got on the phone and said, Hey, we need help here. Now, we're also told that they're going to have cots, meals, blankets, everything that will help residents in this area.

And neighbors tell me that the thing that is getting them through this is help from other neighbors. They say spirits have been up, people have been very cooperative. So that's one good thing to hear, Keith.

OLBERMANN: FEMA getting another chance. Lisa Daniels in Yardley, Pennsylvania, just across the river from Trenton, New Jersey. Many thanks. Stay Dry.

And lessons keep coming out of Louisiana long after the floodwaters from Katrina had subsided. The maximum sentence, 15 years, imposed on three convicted looters in Kenner, Louisiana. The judge said he wanted to send a message. Cornell Little, Rhonda McGowan (ph), and Paul Pearson (ph) found guilty by a jury in May. They had attempted to leave a grocery store with bottles of liquor, wine, and beer six days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall last September.

A tougher new law for looting during a state emergency, or state of emergency, went into effect two weeks before the storm, and the trio the first to be convicted under it.

Also here, now, this car did not get shrunk at the dry cleaners.

Sixty miles to the gallon, and you can keep it under your desk?

Maybe Juan Valdez will get one now that he's retired, turning in the donkey and the coffee beans for a whole new way of life for one of the most famous commercial actors of all time.

That and more, ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: A bewildering variety of birthdays on June 29. The great actor Slim Pickens from "Dr. Strangelove," the great British actor Ian Bannon, the violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, and, of course, my own hero, the inimitable Richard Lewis, comedian, raconteur, and bon vivant, and I'm not telling you how old he is now. He's got enough troubles.

In honor of the birthday of the man his friends know as The Prince, let's play Oddball.

We begin in Bogota, Colombia, for rare footage of the most sacred of events, the passing of the Juan Valdez. Yes, after 37 years as Colombian coffee ambassador to the world, it is time for the actor, Carlos Sanchez, to turn in his mule and poncho. (INAUDIBLE) look at his mule.

And a new Juan Valdez will become the guy carrying the bean sack, taking it up and carrying it around the globe with his trusty mule, Conchita. Fresh blood time. It was an emotional ceremony, but a necessary one in the endless cycle of a coffee mascot life, the famous hack handed over to the next generation. And for a moment, the future and the past joined together in an uncomfortable and slightly too long embrace.

For the old Juan Valdez hands over the keys to his ass, and then wanders off into the bean fields to get a gig as a big talking drumstick at a local chicken restaurant, or possibly to get in line to become the next Dr. Who. Safe home, old Juan Valdez, safe home.

To Germany, where once again the sport of soccer is made more interesting when it's being played by inanimate objects, or, in this case, animated inanimate objects, Legos. Ohh. This movie will be playing in more than 60 German theaters to celebrate the World Cup. It is the second such film made by three young Danish men. Their first Legos-playing-soccer film hailed by the German magazine "Der Spiegel" as one of the greatest films about soccer ever made. Yes, one of the greatest.

Pastimes of a much different variety, explosions, rat-a-tat-tattin', it's the full auto show, took America by storm when we showed it to you earlier. Now we'll answer all the burning questions you have about it.

And there's just one big question for this. Why? Why? Michael Musto will once again try to get inside the mind of Britney Spears, if any.

These stories ahead.

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

Number three, six British Airways flight attendants facing disciplinary action for having missed a New York-to-London flight, which was then cancelled because of their absence. Their explanation, they were too tired to work after being kept awake at their New York hotel by prostitutes and pimps.

Number two, Steve Monaghetti, one of the top marathon runners in Australia, who has now proved the point of critics of the commuter rail service (INAUDIBLE) in Sydney. To go from Summerhill Station to Lewisham Station to Crystal Street Station to Standmore Station, it took the 8:14 train just about eight minutes. Monaghetti ran the same route alongside the tracks, crossing intersections and stopping at Don't Walk signs in seven minutes and seven seconds. He literally outran the train.

And number one, another example of World Cup soccer fever, from which we in this country are mercifully immune. An unnamed fan in Beijing, his home caught fire at 3:00 in the morning, just as the telecast of the France-Spain match began. His wife clutched her baby in her arms and ran to safety. The man clutched his television in his arms, and also ran to safety, and promptly plugged the TV in a nearby outdoor electrical outlet.


OLBERMANN: Not only did we think it was the most awesome field report we've seen in a long time, apparently you the viewer thought so too when we shared it Tuesday night this week. So, in our third story in the Countdown, let's do it all again. This time with more of an explanation. It's a bonus airing of the first edition of "Keith Olberman's America" beginning with the 46th state, the land of black gold and ratings gold, apparently. A little town in the north east corner of Oklahoma called Wyandotte, a place that takes the term "gun country" to a whole new level. Galen Culver of affiliate KFOR reported this for us, he'll join us in a moment to explain. First, let us revel once again as he takes to Oklahoma's fifth annual Full Auto Shoot.


GALEN CULVER, KFOR-TV, REPORTER: Most people think they're illegal, that you can go to jail for owning or even firing an automatic weapon. But folks here know better, every year they flock to northeast Oklahoma for a chance to shoot fully automatic weapons.


CULVER: Mike Friend began this event five years for his customer who is wanted a bigger experience than just his indoor range. At this remote spot, just a riffle shot from the Missouri state line, they can really let 'er rip.

FRIEND: They come out here to see the things, the real thing work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once you do it, you're hooked.

CULVER: Paul Ware brings his son, Austin, every year.

PAUL WARE, SHOOTER: He's 12 years old, probably got as much trigger time on (INAUDIBLE) on a full auto than a lot of our military guys there.

CULVER: There are grandpas who bring their grandsons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did you like that? It was fun, wasn't it, bud?


CULVER: Husbands and wife's and people from other countries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, this is first time I ever knew about it.

CULVER: They come to satisfy curiosity and watch stuff blow up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you enjoy the noise and the smoke and the smell, you can get it all right here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't understand it until you come out here and try it. The ladies will come out here and they're just not that enthused with it until they pick one up and shoot it, then they're back every year.

CULVER: Ben LePrairie (ph) sent a year with the Marines in Iraq, he couldn't get enough.

BEN LEPRAIRIE, U.S. MARINE: Oh yeah, I'm having a blast.

CULVER: Glen Moore paid handsomely for his World War II era Browning (ph) .50 caliber, but he's happy, too.

GLEN MOORE, SHOOTER: Rush. Big rush. I love it. (INAUDIBLE) excellent investment.

CULVER: They're gun owners and gun renters, shooting at targets like washing machines and exploding cars.


In a remote spot in far Northeast Oklahoma, a hail of lead rains down on a vacant hillside. Over a long weekend, these folks call that a hail of a good time.

Near Wyandotte, Galen Culver, News Channel 4. Is this a great state or what?


OLBERMANN: Sure is. Galen Culver joins us now from the great state of Oklahoma to share more about his experiences at the Oklahoma Full Auto Show. Thanks for your time, sir.

CULVER: You're welcome.

OLBERMANN: I've got to ask you first. Gauge the reaction when you showed this on your newscast. I mean, I got the feeling here that however much some of us talk about gun control, at heart, almost all of like to watch it taken to this kind of extreme. Is that the reaction there?

CULVER: Oh yeah. The first I'd heard of it was from a phone call somebody said you might want to check this out. I watched last year's highlights on the web, it was kind of a five-minute real and the consensus in our newsrom you have to go, no matter what you do, you got to be there. So I called up my friend and couple of the people from the Firing Line which is a business that rents automatic weapons and they said, sure, come on out. So I did, and I wasn't sorry.

OLBERMANN: Is there an age limit do you have to be a certain height to operate the machinegun or what?

CULVER: The one boy I saw there that I interviewed was seven. I did see anybody younger than him, but I did see a few kids out there. Somehow I don't think so. The 2005 highlights had a little girl in there that couldn't have been more than six. You know, I think as long as one of the range officials is willing to let you in and the person that owns that automatic weapon is are going to let squeeze the trigger, you can do it no matter how young you are or old.

OLBERMANN: Are there are background checks? What's the process for admission? You just walk up and you start shooting stuff?

CULVER: The admission for the general public was $10. To own an automatic weapon like that, like the ones you saw, requires, from what I'm told, an extensive ATF application process and a thick check book, so it is not easy to own one, but it is possible if you have enough cash to go and fire one without my kind of background check.

OLBERMANN: Did you find out about the extent, the geographic extent of these things? Is it limited to Oklahoma? Is it just the part of the country? Is it the whole nation that has these full auto shows that we didn't know about until now?

CULVER: This one is a pretty big draw. The shoots I heard about, there's one in Waco apparently, it's not quite as big. And this one keeps getting bigger. They had their one day attendance on Saturday which surpassed their attendance for all of last year's events. So, I think over two days they definitely set record for their attendance. But, you know, it's kind of hard a place to do this. It has to be extremely remote and, you know, so I don't think there's very many. But the people who own automatic weapons like to get out and fire them and it's better than an indoor range and you know, you can blow stuff up at a remote event like this.

OLBERMANN: Yeah, what's the point of owning one if you can't blow stuff up with it? Are there neighbors to complain about this? Is there somebody living on the other side of that hill going, here we go?

CULVER: Well, Wyandotte is a remote area in and of itself. It's right next to the Missouri border. And it's kind of - it's well outside of Wyandotte. I think Miller Flats is the closest community that I saw and it's down a dirt road, you know, over the hill and dale and then another several miles and dirt roads to finally get to where you - where they were shooting. The fire line itself is about 400 feet long, but to get to it was quite a ways off the highway.

OLBERMANN: The exploding car was the thing, obviously, that got the most attention. Do you have any idea how they rigged that up?

CULVER: I heard gasoline bombs and a good deal of gun powder. They're actually some businesses, I saw two there that are in the business of making exploding targets. I didn't know that, but that's another story from down the road. But yeah, they're there. And if you want they'll rig something to blow up if you shoot it just right and they had several of those out there including just targets, just to blow up for the heck of it.

OLBERMANN: And that dishwasher, Galen, was that there, that dishwashing machine, was that there all the time? Did that just happened to be in there or did somebody bring it with them or how did that wind up out there?

CULVER: I think that was placed.


CULVER: Along with all the other things there. You know, I got there in the afternoon and after they pretty well shot things up. They would shut the line down officially for the fire department to go out and put out grass fires and then at certain points they would shut down the line for a little bit longer period to place more explosives and - they called that car thing "kill the car" where they suspend it on a rope and then a sharp shooter hits the rope and the car starts moving and then the whole line opens up.

OLBERMANN: So, all what we saw there was stuff that most of it had happened before you got there, that is the most amazing part of the whole thing. Galen Culver of KFOR in Oklahoma City. We're out of time, but the man behind the first ever installment of "Keith Olbermann America's," many thanks for sharing the hot lead of ratings success with us, sir.

From big guns to tiny cars. Let's see them shoot this, you can't even find it. Small in size, big in fuel efficiency. It's the smart car. It's a success overseas, will anyone dare get in one here. Maybe it's useful as a paperweight? And the story behind this photo. Yes, that's comedian Rush Limbaugh planting one on, oh, she's on "24" and he's on Viagra. Details ahead, but first here are Countdown's "Top 3 Sound Bites" of this day.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the Japanese are going to like the taste of U.S. beef. As a matter of fact, I had a good slice of beef last night and you told me you did as well. You look like you're feeling pretty good.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a difficult day for all of us at "The View."

O'BRIEN: Yes, yes. Hey Star, what's going on it looks like you put on weight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, you know what they say the camera adds 50 pounds.

O'BRIEN: Now wait a minute, isn't it the camera as 10 pounds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not if you eat it

O'BRIEN: Now wait a minute.

MIKE LEONARD, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Confronting fear is scary.

(on camera): You don't like to touch fish?

I don't like to touch fish, no.


LEONARD (voice-over): Conquering ones' fears however, sometimes requires a dance with danger, but a lap dance? Now that is going too far.


OLBERMANN: Would high gas prices motivate you to buy a Smart Car. Would Viagra motivate you to kiss Rush Limbaugh? And what, if anything, is motivating Britney Spears? A plea for privacy followed up by a nude photo shoot. Logical disconnect? That's next, this is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Oh, here we go. Gas prices nationwide reported to have risen Thursday for the fifth consecutive day, the busiest driving days of the year coming up this Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, just a coincidence, no doubt.

But in our No. 2 story in the Countdown, if you're willing to give up perks and trade your SUV in for a vehicle that looks like a little large Matchbox car we can get you 40 to 60 miles an gallon, please. Out of Chicago, Janet Shamlian reports on the Smart Car also known as the small car.


JANET SHAMLIAN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (on camera): It's the Mini Me of the auto industry. Already zipping all over Europe, the Smart Car is crossing the pond.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Daimler Chrysler will bring Smart to the U.S. in the first quarter of 2008.

SHAMLIAN: This pint-sized ride offers two seats and not much else, unless you count between 40 and 60 miles to the gallon.

CSABA CSERE, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF "CAR AND DRIVER" MAGAZINE: This car is very novel. There's nothing else like it, it's neat, and there's going to be a group of people who love that.

SHAMLIAN: But can an overgrown golf cart safely do battle with the road's big boys? It comes with airbags and it's makers say it's done well in crash tests.

ROGER PENSKE, CHAIRMAN, UNITED AUTO GROUP: When you think about a vehicle that can 600 miles on a tank full of fuel you've got a real viable project here.

SHAMLIAN: It might be smart, but don't call it snappy. The meek 50 horse power three cylinder engine, the Smart Car barley hits 85 and at eight feet long, it looks like something out of a toy store next to those super size kings of the road.

(on camera): But parking will be such a breezed. The Smart Car is so little it fits perpendicular into parking spaces try that with any car.

(voice-over): Priced under $15,000 will it sell in

CSERE: If gas stays at $3 a gallon or goes higher that's going to be great for the Smart Car. If gas drops back to about $2 a gallon, it's going to have a tough go.

SHAMLIAN: A sassy little import, hoping for headway in the world's biggest car market. Betting Americans will want to drive smart.

Janet Shamlian, NBC News, Chicago.


OLBERMANN: Of course, no matter how smart the car is you cannot drive it back here in from the Dominican Republic. That's our segue into our world of celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs." And three days after he was detrained at Palm Beach airport with 29 Viagra pills that were prescribed in somebody else's name there has still been no word as to whether or not Florida prosecutors think comedian Rush Limbaugh violated his plea arrangements on those doctor shopping charges. But there is something. Perhaps this will refresh your memory. That's Mr. Limbaugh at a panel discussion on the TV series "24" at the Heritage Foundation in Washington last week. Ad he appears to be doing more than just discussing things with the actress Mary Lynn Rajskub who plays computer technician Chloe O'Brien on the show. The Washington political insider publication "Roll Call" has printed rumors to the effect that Limbaugh and Rajskub, once in the fabled spoof the "Larry Sander's Show" are dating. We'll leave you to decide whether this would be a step up from her exboyfriend comic David Cross.

In the meantime there is this cosmic fact, all of human history divides evenly into two categories. Those time when Pamela Anderson is nude and those times when Pamela is preparing to get nude. We're on the cusp again, Ms. Anderson bearing her flesh again, this time in protest of Hollywood celebrities who wear fur and especially, she says, those like Beyonce Knowles and Jennifer Lopez, who are putting fur product into their clothing lines. Why she chose to make this protest in the window of Stella McCartney's clothing boutique in London, England I do not know. I do know that this happens frequently enough that schedules for when Ms. Anderson will be naked in public are often included in local and national weather forecasts.

There's nude protests and then there's nude just for the sake of being nude. Just wondering if this really is the best way for La Spears to get the privacy she says she longs for. Michael Musto analyzes that. First time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for "Worst Person in the World."

The bronze to a couple blazing a path of larceny across central Florida. The weapon of choice for this modern day Bonnie and Clyde? A $20 bill attached to a ribbon several feet long. They keep putting the $20 bill in change making machines at car washes. They get $20 in change, and then they retrieve the bill from the machines by pulling gently on the ribbon. Police believe they have walked away so far with more than $20,000.

Our runner-up, Fateh Mohammad, an inmate at a prison in Multan in Pakistan. He was experiencing a little difficulty in the gastrointestinal tract, please. Doctors examined him and discovered that there was a light bulb in his anus. Well, there's your problem right there. Mr. Mohammed insists he has no idea how it got there. He believes he must have been drugged into a comatose state, in prison, and the bulb hidden on him without him knowing anything about it. Me, I'm thinking he was trying to do the Uncle Fester bit with the "Adam's Family" but had really bad instructions.

But our winner, San Francisco radio host, Melanie Morgan. Not only has she suggested seriously that "New York Times" executive editor, Bill Keller, be jailed for treason, but now she tells the "San Francisco Chronicle," "If he were to be tried and convicted I would have no problem with him being sent to the gas chamber." Hey, somebody want to check Ms. Morgan for light bulbs?

Melanie Morgan, today's "Worst Person in the World."


OLBERMANN: You should know by now that Britney Spears wants her privacy. She told us herself during that interview with Matt Lauer in between the gum-chewing. "Yeah," she said, she would like to have the paparazzi leave her alone. The thought of them made her cry. So, in our No. 1 story in the Countdown, she intent in taking back control of her and her image, she wants her privacy and she wants it, apparently, right after this. The cover of the August issue of "Harper's Bazaar" magazine, a six months pregnant and naked Britney Spears. Right, not naked exactly, she is wearing a necklace. That's how to protect your privacy. More photos inside the issue, also necked, one holding baby Shawn, none holding hubby Kevin Federline, and once again, you forgot the old saw, don't ever take a picture naked, somebody might publish it.

Let's call in "Village Voice" columnist, Michael Musto for details.

Michael, hello.


OLBERMANN: If a picture's worth a thousand words, what on earth is Ms. Spears telling us here?

MUSTO: Well, there's a theory these pictures were taken before she was pregnant. It was just a bad nacho day. But, no, no, no, she's defiantly with child. I think what's she's saying is, I hates publicity except for the hate part. She's also saying that birthing is natural and beautiful and should be shown. I totally agree with that, but still I'm glad that every issue is coming with a vomit bag. And I cannot wait until she breaks one or we're going to need Jacques Cousteau to choose that one.

OLBERMANN: The life aquatic.

MUSTO: Yeah.

OLBERMANN: What do you think the inspiration here was, that famous Demi Moore "Vanity Fair" cover from 15 years ago or the - that unauthorized statue of Britney Spears, herself, nude on a bearskin rug giving birth?

MUSTO: That statue was like a white trash prequel into the (INAUDIBLE), bit I don't think that even kitsch art would inspire Britney, and that includes Demi Moore, by the way. I think she was inspired by Angelina who most recently pimped her baby. Britney did one better, she skipped the middle man and she pimped out her belly. You know? And now we know why Britney went back to being brunette, because she wanted the hair to match on the photos.

OLBERMANN: Oh. All right, quickly moving on to the cover here, and I'm a little surprised by one thing here. It says, "Fall shopping preview. Get perfect skin. Great fashion for every age. Nothing to wear - 487 best new ideas inside." Which one of those is the title reference to Ms. Spears?

MUSTO: I'm going to go with the obvious and say the 487 ideas, which id you notice is not positioned by her head on the cover, it's but between her legs. OK? No, I knew that was a very fertile region, but I had no idea there were that many exciting ideas up there. I mean two or 300 maybe, but 487? I just thought of 488. Keep that thing away from me.

OLBERMANN: I think it's time to take a fieldtrip. We're also hearing that as soon as Ms. Spears gets dressed, she going to move back home to Baton Rouge. "In Touch Weekly" says she's seeking a simple life, planning to move into her mother's house. She's going to renovate it, she'll even buy an extra home nearby so Mr. Federline will have somewhere to go when he gets tired of her mom, or vice versa. You want to reality check that story for us?

MUSTO: You know, I love the idea that K-Fed might get sick of mom and not vice-versa. But anyway, Baton Rouge might be Namibia, but it is very private. It's a great idea. Posing naked while pregnant is not a good idea for privacy, but that's why I love Britney, she's my favorite conundrum. She's a contradiction, like L.A. style or Army Intelligence or a Madonna movie.

OLBERMANN: And while we're on the subject of conundrums, let's turn over from the naked pop star, to the naked hostility between the erased co-host of "The View," Star Jones, and Barbara Walters. Ms. Jones complaining that Barbara Walters offered Rosie O'Donnell a job on the program during the very week O'Donnell was attacking Jones publicly. Ms. Jones now says, "For Barbara to say she felt betrayed is the height of hypocrisy." Is the feud peaked or is - or are we going further than this?

MUSTO: Oh, it's so not over. Star is so angry her stomach staple popped. Baba is so angry that her hair moved, if not her face. But it all makes sense to me, I mean, Baba hates Star, Wosie twashes Star, Baba hires Wosie. What doesn't make sense to you, Star?

OLBERMANN: Is there a message that you better not try to sell naming rights to your wedding or that Rosie O'Donnell still runs this town or what's the message in this?

MUSTO: The message is partly that Wosie wules, but also there are other messages like, don't be against gay marriage and then marry a gay. That's hypocritical. Don't have your wedding be so sponsored that your vows are 'til the end or our Swatch watches do us part. And don't (INAUDIBLE) Debbie Matenopoulos, because have you seen her lately?

OLBERMANN: The one and only Michael Musto, always more entertaining than the celebrities he covers. Great thanks for your time, Michael.

MUSTO: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: That's Countdown, for this the 1,155th day since the declaration of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann. Goodnight and good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with "Scarborough Country."


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for June 28

Video via YouTube: Factor Fiction, h/t ctblogger

Guests: Katrina Szish, Roger Cressey

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

Manufactured outrage, as Republicans on the Hill threaten an investigation into how much damage "The New York Times" did with its bank-tapping revelations. The conclusion, it did none. The secret overseas banking organization openly says it cooperates with foreign investigations, it has a Web site about it, and a magazine.

And the president kept talking about it.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're tracking terrorists activity, we're freezing terrorist finances.


OLBERMANN: States of emergency. All along the East Coast, the rain falls, the floodwaters rise, the thousands evacuate.

Congressman John Murtha gets a retraction, Bill O'Reilly gets his.

It's fact or fiction night.

And this just in -


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you guys hear that?


OLBERMANN:... the "Snakes on a Plane" movie trailer has been released.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what I'm talking about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know what kind of airline you're running here, but you got a reptile problem.


OLBERMANN: Speaking of reptiles, taking a jaundiced "VIEW."


BARBARA WALTERS, HOST: It is becoming uncomfortable for us to pretend that everything is the same at this table, and therefore, regrettably, Star will no longer be on this program.


OLBERMANN: Or in its show open (ph), or its Web site. It's as if Star Jones never happened.

All that and more, now on Countdown.

Good evening from New York.

Republicans in the House are drafting a resolution to condemn "The New York Times." Republicans in the Senate are insisting on an investigation of "The New York Times." The villagers are lighting their torches and knotting their ropes, because "The Times" revealed the secret terrorist financing tracking program, bank-tapping.

There's one snag. The secret terrorist financing tracking program may not have been a secret, not if there was a Web site and a magazine devoted to it.

Our fifth story on the Countdown tonight, your tax dollars in action.

On Monday, you will recall, President Bush said it was "disgraceful" that "The Times" and two other media outlets had reported that the administration was monitoring international financial transactions handled by something called the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Communications, SWIFT for short, Mr. Bush continuing the drumbeat in St. Louis last tonight, White House press secretary Tony Snow charging yesterday, quote, "I am absolutely sure they," "they" being terrorists, "did not know about SWIFT."

The only problem, SWIFT is about as clandestine a banking organization as Wachovia. Exhibit A, any terrorist with an Internet connection able to access SWIFT's own Web site, no password needed, no secret handshake required. On the site, SWIFT perfectly willing to let everyone know what it is doing.

Quote, "Cooperating in the global fight against abuse of the financial system for illegal activities."

Exhibit B, SWIFT, the magazine, called "Dialogue." It is the voice of the SWIFT community, it says.

Finally, exhibit C, the most perplexing voice of all, the president himself, who has never made a secret of his desire to secretly track down terrorists by secretly following the secret money.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, September 24, 2001)

BUSH: Today we have launched a strike on the financial foundation of the global terror network.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, April 19, 2004)

BUSH: See, part of the way to make sure that we catch terrorists is, we chase money trails.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, November 7, 2001)

BUSH: From the mountains of Afghanistan to the bank accounts of terrorist organizes...


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, December 20, 2001)

BUSH: We're running down our money trails, the assets of more than 150 known terrorists, their organizations, and their bankers have been frozen by the United States.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, November 25, 2002)

BUSH: We're tracking terrorist activity, we're freezing terrorist finances, we're disrupting terrorist plots.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, October 10, 2001)

BUSH: The American people must understand that we're making great progress in other fronts, that we're halting their money.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, March 23, 2004)

BUSH: We've got a strong network of cooperative governments trying to chase down terrorist money and prevent that money from being spread around to cause harm.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, December 4, 2001)

BUSH: Message is this, those who do business with terror will do no business with the United States or anywhere else the United States can reach.


OLBERMANN: Time now to call in MSNBC terrorism analyst Roger Cressey, former official on the National Security Council, who joins us by phone, because of the flooding conditions throughout the Northeast.

Roger, thanks for your time.

Roger, you're with us?


Yes, I'm with you.

OLBERMANN: All right. Is there any evidence that "The Times" has caused any damage by disclosing the existence of a bank-monitoring program, of which you might be able to say, as seen on SWIFT, the Web site, and SWIFT, the magazine?

CRESSEY: No, the short answer is, it hasn't, because, as you just went through, there's been plenty of publicity. I think the question, though, is where there's a difference between it being in the ether and on various Web sites, and being on the front page of the "The New York Times."

So to the extent that it is publicized that well, it is counterproductive. But there's no state secret being released, that's for sure.

OLBERMANN: The administration has repeatedly called al Qaeda sophisticated, emphasized its cunning as much as its evil. They rationalized some of the wiretappings of our e-mails by saying the terrorists are extremely savvy about the Internet. Wouldn't a sophisticated, cunning, evil, Internet-using terrorist group know that these tactics were going to be used? Might they even have a subscription to SWIFT, the magazine?

CRESSEY: If they do, I'm sure they've renewed it already. Look, they're not stupid. They understand that we are trying to monitor not just their communications, but also their money. And to the extent that they are looking at ways that we do that, they will conclude that SWIFT was one of the mechanisms that we use.

The al Qaeda organization has tried to adapt to the steps we've taken since 9/11 in a variety of ways. And one of those is, they've looked to move money in ways that go below the international financial radar, the Howallis (ph) system, which is a mindless transaction system that's being used. Criminal gangs are getting involved.

So, you know, while it is counterproductive to publicize it like this, you know, I think the terrorists probably had a good feeling we were going to look after their money already.

OLBERMANN: And you worked in the White House in the aftermath of 9/11. Was this at any point conceived as a secret program?

CRESSEY: Not secret in the traditional sense of classified information. I mean, it was authorized through the IEPA Act, which is an emergency powers mechanism the president has. Again, it's not something that the White House would want to trumpet to the world in real specific detail. But as you demonstrated through your montage of clips of the president, he's talked about following the money since 9/11. So again, this is not going to come as a surprise to al Qaeda or any of its affiliates.

OLBERMANN: Has the program worked? If so, why haven't we heard about the successes from an administration that makes a big deal about its success in this area?

CRESSEY: Well, I think it has worked. And the administration did talk about how this program led to information that ultimately led to the capture of Hambali, now, one of the more notorious al Qaeda terrorists in Southeast Asia.

But the issue, Keith, is always sources and methods. How much do you talk about the tools and techniques that you're using? Because if you publicize it too much, then that becomes counterproductive as well.

So this is in that gray area where the tool was known to some people in the community, and it was available on the Internet. But people weren't talking about it from the podium of the White House.

OLBERMANN: MSNBC terrorism analyst Roger Cressey. As always, sir, great thanks. And good luck with the travel in the bad weather conditions.

CRESSEY: Thanks, Keith. I'm on the Ark right now.

OLBERMANN: All right.

For more on the politics of this story, specifically, what the Bush administration might hope to gain in waging a war against the media, we're joined now by our chief Washington correspondent, Norah O'Donnell.

Thanks for your time, Norah.


OLBERMANN: By being out there, speaking about the effort to track terrorist finances from virtually day one of this, has the president not been saying that this program exists, but he also has been saying that it's successful? Didn't the - if there was any surprise on this, didn't the White House give it away long before "The New York Times" printed what now looks like a rehash?

O'DONNELL: Since just the days after 9/11, this administration has been making the case that they needed a multifaceted effort to fight the war on terror, that it was not only going to be military, it was going to be diplomatic, so that it was also going to be financial, that they would use every means possible in order to choke off terrorist funds.

Now, clearly, what the administration is unhappy about, even though the president has repeatedly talked about the successes that they have had in choking off terrorist funds, that they're unhappy that "The New York Times" detailed it on the front page of the newspaper.

OLBERMANN: I noted this on Monday, the articles in "The Times" and "The L.A. Times" and "The Wall Street Journal" hit the Web Thursday of last week, it hit the newsstands last Friday. It was Monday before the president and the vice president got so hopped up about this. It was Wednesday before the light bulbs began to flicker on over the heads of the Republicans on the Hill about investigations and condemnations.

Is there any conclusion to draw, other than this is, if not manufactured outrage, at least amplified outrage, that it isn't about bank-tapping at all, it's simply a blatant attempt to get "The New York Times"?

O'DONNELL: I think amplified is right. I mean, I think that the president and the vice president, I'm told, were personally offended by this. And the vice president did speak out about it on Friday first, and then we heard the president on Monday.

But clearly, there has been a decision made, a coordinated attack from the White House, and now duplicated by those up on Capitol Hill, that lambasting "The New York Times" makes good politics, that blasting the media will rally the base in this election year.

And this is not over. There has been some overhyped rhetoric, certainly, but now we have Congressman J.D. Hayworth, a Republican on Capitol Hill, saying that the credentials of "New York Times" reporters covering Capitol Hill should be revoked. Now, lawmakers have no authority over reporters up on Capitol Hill. And a lot of people get press passes up on Capitol Hill.

We're told that this is shameful, et cetera, and now tomorrow, we are going to have on the House of Representatives a debate, because the Republicans are playing to put forward this seven-page resolution condemning the media for leaking classified information. So you can bet that the House of Representatives is going to spend a full day debating this.

OLBERMANN: By the way, Mr. Hayworth of Arizona used to be a sportscaster. And you know what kind of credibility ex-sportscasters have. But with...

O'DONNELL: You would know better than I.

OLBERMANN: But with this much news about how much this supersecret banking operation, SWIFT, publicized its own role in counterterrorism investigations, is there anybody in the administration or the Republican Party contemplating putting the brakes on at some point? Because even some people in the base they hope to be firing up might be saying, Wait, if this was a secret, why did the people keeping the secret publish a magazine about it? Could this still wind up being another embarrassment to the White House?

O'DONNELL: Well, "The New York Times" has argued just that, that when they broke the story on the secret eavesdropping and wiretapping, that one of the arguments that the White House made to them is, If you publicize this, we'll then have to stop this program. And there's no indication that that program has, in fact, stopped, that it is still (INAUDIBLE). And, in fact, now, the vice president is working out a deal with the Senate in order to have some congressional oversight.

But clearly, there is some deep anger within this administration at "The New York Times." I think it's not just politics too, Keith, I think that's the easy sort of answer. But I think there's also a sense, an anger at the media that stretches and "The New York Times" that stretches throughout this administration, over a whole host of things.

Remember in the beginning, what the president and vice president called one of "The New York Times" reporters big time, remember that famous sort of phrase. But I think this is also this administration drawing a line in the sand. And I think that they are sending a message to some extent about what reporters, newspapers know in the future about our efforts to fight terrorism. And they're trying to draw a very sharp line about that, because they don't want to see more of it in the newspapers or on the media. We'll see.

OLBERMANN: (INAUDIBLE), there's a simpler way to do it, give us better news, and we'll print it and broadcast it, you don't have to make this stuff up.

Anyway, MSNBC's chief Washington correspondent, Norah O'Donnell.

Thanks, Norah.

O'DONNELL: My pleasure.

OLBERMANN: Also here, relentless rains along the East Coast, major flooding, and several states of emergency, including the evacuation of the entire area of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

And Bill O'Reilly evacuates, on the air, again. Getting out of the way of the facts once more, we falsehood-check Bill O. in another edition of Fact or Fiction.

You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: New Orleans 2005 notwithstanding, the city of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, is still synonymous with fatal flooding in this country. In May 1889, the banks of a poorly maintained artificial lake high in the hills above that city gave way after days of relentless rain. In an instant, at least 2,200 people were killed.

In our fourth story on the Countdown, 2,000 miles to the northeast, or 200 miles to the northeast, rather, another Pennsylvania city is threatened now by another potential wall of water, Wilkes-Barre, city population 53,000, area population 200,000. And after days of relentless rain, its residents may have to flee.

Our correspondent in nearby Reading, Pennsylvania, is Lisa Daniels.



And behind me is the Schuylkill River, which is about 20 feet higher than its normal level. It began flooding on Sunday, and it's really continued ever since. Now, the good news is, officials believe this is the highest the river will go. You mentioned Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, about 85 miles from where we're standing, a very different story there, where there are mandatory evacuations right now in effect. All of this going on as the Northeast continues to battle water everywhere.


DANIELS (voice-over): The evacuation in Wilkes-Barre is just the latest concern after four days of heavy rain in the Northeast. In upstate New York, the floodwaters quickly overtook this two-story restaurant, dumping it into the East Canada Creek outside of Utica.

In Maryland, rescue efforts came too late to save three people swept away by the floods.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were got to about five feet of them, but that was just - they couldn't hold on anymore.

DANIELS: And for residents in New Jersey, years of dealing with floods have prepared them for this race against time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Devastating, devastating. This time they say it's supposed to be worse, so we had to take from the first floor up to the second floor. So it was a lot of furniture and, you know, things that you cherish.

DANIELS: Overflowing rivers are also the concern in Rockville, Maryland, where officials are keeping a close eye on the Lake Needwood Dam, worried that it will give way. As water climbs onto bridges, and flows through houses...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can see here that the water is having its way.

DANIELS: Officials try meeting the water on its own terms, but the mission isn't easy. Governors in three different states try to calm residents while conveying the urgency of what can go wrong.

GOV. GEORGE PATAKI (R), NEW YORK: While the sun is shining, the worst is not behind us. The rivers will crest higher than they are right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this point, we're doing everything we can for you.

DANIELS: But in the town of Port Carvon (ph), Pennsylvania, Mayor Chuck Joy (ph) has already seen too much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ten-four, thank you.

DANIELS: Firefighters struggling to keep the water from winning the battle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just unimaginable, it's like a bad dream that you want to wake up from.

DANIELS: So much water everywhere that even those that live in the river need a break.


DANIELS: And Keith, if this was a normal day in Reading, Pennsylvania, I'd actually be standing in a parking lot. Instead, you can see, I don't know, there's about a foot of water beneath me. And it actually gets deeper if we go back.

So even this city has a big cleanup ahead of it.

Back to you.

OLBERMANN: It's been an extraordinary spring and early summer. Lisa Daniels, reporting from Reading, Pennsylvania, great thanks.

A much-needed break from the serious news of the day, proprietors of a coffee shop in Washington state obviously watch our Oddball segment. I mean, where else do you think they get an idea like this?

And we still don't know where they got the idea for a movie called "Snakes on a Plane," but the title is so bad, it's good. How has its first theatrical trailer sunk in?

Snakes on a Countdown, ahead.


OLBERMANN: Actor John Cusack is now 40, born June 28, 1966. I mention this to, A, make him and the rest of us feel old, and, B, so I can mention he's a regular viewer of Countdown, and we thank him for his support. And I also mention his viewing habits because of something fishy we've detected in our lead piece of goofy video in this newshour.

Let's play Oddball.

And we begin in Seattle, Washington, with a special Oddball investigative report. It seems we've caught another big corporation exploiting people in the third world just to sell a few extra overpriced coffees. All right, maybe it's just one location of Starbuck's that has installed a fender-blender in their store. They say it's a new, unique way for customers to get a little exercise while they blend their own frappuccino half (ph) tall venty (ph) fat-free whatever.

Don't palm this off as your idea, buddy. We were there, that's right, in Guatemala, back in 2005, when this bike blender contraption was invented, because we just knew some big corporation would want to steal this great idea. Great idea.

Look at her go. I believe we gave the machine some kind of award for best innovation, likely to change the future of expensive coffee drinks. Or maybe we just laughed at the ladies from another country. I can't recall which.

Speaking of amazing innovations, check out these new solar boats. It's Nieuwenworden (ph) in the Netherlands, and this is the first-ever solar boat race held in cloudy weather. Look at them go. Twenty-seven teams powering 130 miles up the Bly (ph) River in overcast and rainy conditions, reaching speeds almost as fast as if they rowed things, cells (ph).

We're all for the whole alternative energy sources things, but, folks, get a sail or something.

Finally to Moscow, where Russian President Vladimir Putin has given us a new reason to run this old video. It's the tape of the fake Silvio Berlusconi giving a special hello to an unsuspecting traffic cop. Right there. Well, we won't promise to retire the video just yet, but it has been topped. Oh, not really.

But at least we know this is the real president of Russia here, stopping to meet with little kids outside the Kremlin. Seemed to take a particular liking to this fellow, and he gives him his own hello. Well, that's something the kid's going to remember the rest of his life, the day the president of Russia kissed me on my tummy-tum-tum. That's correct. No amount of therapy is ever going to erase that memory. Ughhh.

If that doesn't turn your stomach a bit, you can always rely on Bill O. He's at it again, playing horseshoes with the facts, not only not getting any ringers, but, in fact, hitting himself square in the loofah. Fact or Fiction is next.

And from fiction to friction, not even the best Hollywood writers could have dreamt how Star Jones would crash and burn in her exit from "THE VIEW." Baba goes ballistic.

Details ahead.

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

Number three, the rabid right-wing spin group the Media Research Center, which studied our Worst Persons in the World segment for the last year and discovered that of approximately 600 nominees, only 174 of them were conservative. That means roughly 71 percent of the worst are not conservative.

I'd like to thank the MRC for confirming my point that the segment is apolitical.

Number two, the unnamed French gambler who made a 426-mile round trip from Paris to London just to place a bet on the World Cup. The bookmakers William Hill say that the man was outside their main office, hopping up and down waiting for them to open. He rushed in, put 10,000 Euros on Brazil to win the whole thing, then rushed out again to catch his return train back to Paris.

The bookies say they did not have the heart to tell the man he could have placed that bet over the phone or on the Internet.

And number one, Laura Chick, city controller of Los Angeles, California, is one of many officials criticizing an upcoming charity event in town, in which a restaurant chain will be raising money for L.A. animal services. Chick says even if it does raise a lot of money for spaying and neutering pets, it's a step backwards for the city to host the Hooters for Neuters Bikini Contest next month. Wait a minute, they're going to step backwards too? All right!


OLBERMANN: The attempt to swiftboat the Pennsylvania congressman and honored Vietnam vet, Jack Murtha has not only failed, but the boat was swamped and the malefactors washed overboard. Our third story in the Countdown, a Florida newspaper admits now it misquoted Murtha's comments, which had allegedly included his belief that the U.S. was the greatest threat to the international peace. The newspaper has now admitted its reporter or somebody screwed up and screwed up badly. Murtha was merely quoting an international poll that said many people in many other countries felt that way. The paper has corrected its Killian Memos level mistake. The conservative propagandists who then slammed Murtha, like Bill O'Reilly correcting? Don't hold your breath.

Murtha spoke Saturday in the Miami area and the next day's editions of the South Florida "Sun Sentinel" newspaper contained an article with this eye-popping sentence: "American presence in Iraq is more dangerous to world peace than nuclear threats from North Korea or Iran, U.S. Rep. John Murtha, said to a crowd of more than 200 in North Miami, Saturday afternoon."

Conservative web spinner Matt Drudge put a link to the paper on his website. Presto, queue the flurry of right-wing outrage. FOX News chimed in with Bill-O using it as an example of why "Murtha has lost all are perspective." And he, of course, is an expert on that. The "Wall Street Journal" opined on the story. Former speaker Newt Gingrich even said he hoped Congress would censure the congressman. Only problem, Murtha never said that.

After a rival's newspaper's reporter issued a statement saying Murtha was merely quoting polling, the "Sun Sentinel" has now issued a correction of its story. Quoting it: "An article in Sunday's edition misinterpreted a comment from U.S. Rep. John Murtha at a town hall meeting in North Miami on Saturday. In his speech, Murtha said U.S. creditability was suffering because of continued U.S. military presence in Iraq, and the perception that the U.S. is an occupying force. Murtha was citing a recent poll, buy the Pew Global Attitudes Project, that indicates a greater percentage of people in 10 of 14 foreign countries consider the U.S. in Iraq a greater danger to world peace than any threat posed by Iran or North Korea."

The "Wall Street Journal" has put a clarification link on its article slamming Murtha. To his credit Brit Hume of FOX News read the correction on the air. Bill hasn't changed anything in his article that still sites the same misquote. Mr. O'Reilly presumably stuck his fingers in his ears, or stuck something in them and went woo-woo-woo, I can't hear you, woo-woo-woo.

OLBERMANN: And as to O'Reilly, as his lying about Murtha suggests, there has been the usual baying at the moon, the facts that prove far more difficult for him to understand than the fables and the suggestion we should us Saddam Hussein's tactics to pacify post-Saddam Iraq. But otherwise it's been very quiet over in that other plane of non-existence known as O'Reilly land. That has now changed and you know what that means. Hey, kids, what time is it?


STEWIE GRIFFIN, "FAMILY GUY," BABY: Countdown presents "Factor Fiction,: wherein we catch Bill O'Reilly lying again. Oh wait, Bill, hold still. Allow me to soil myself on you. Victory is mine!


OLBERMANN: Yes, Bill-O came off the tracks again Tuesday night in a rant split evenly between the two avenging angels who haunt his dreams, Air America Radio and MSNBC. Ecoutez et traduisez, as they said in French class:

"If you've read any of my books," Which one, the soft core porn novel that was reviewed on Amazon as real load in the pants or the advice book for kids that came out just as the Andrea Mackris scandal broke?

"If you've read any of my books, you know I believe in karma. Do bad

things, you'll get your eventually.'

Now you know why I'm here, Bill. You've done bad things.

"Do good things, you'll be rewarded. Recently, two bad guys got theirs."

Here Bill went off into some story about management changes at Air America, a radio network he called d-sastrous, which I hear was the birth name of D. Snider from Twisted Sister. He eventually meandered towards the point.

"We believe there is major chaos at that far left concern."

As an aside, Bill, who's this "we" you always talk about? You and Ann Coulter? You and your multiple personalities? You and your loofa?


BILL O'REILLY, "THE O'REILLY FACTOR": So, major chaos at MSNBC where Rick Kaplan has left.


OLBERMANN: Bill made another funny. See. by overemphasizing the word "left," he is sending a subtle signal to the dim bulbs in his audience that former MSNBC president Rick Kaplan might have had personal political beliefs that tended towards liberal or left. Bill invented the term.

".where Rick Kaplan has left after pretty much destroying that place."

Bill, boy. Bill-O! Hey! Over here. Back in reality-based reality. The latest ratings have come out. From a year ago to right now, MSNBC's ratings are up 12 percent overall, 13 percent among viewers 25 to 54, and at the hour you and I are on head to head, we're up 37 percent and you're down 20 percent and - I know, I'm sorry, too many numbers in there. You were assured there would be no math.

"Closing in on its 10th anniversary, MSNBC's ratings are lower than they were six years ago which might be ridiculous."

You just sort of got lost in that last sentence, huh, Bill?

Listen Slappy, FOX's ratings are lower than they were five years ago. Bill-O, 267,000 of your viewers have vanished since last June. Call FOX security, they're missing! All 11 of FOX's regular shows ratings are down, four of them are down by 15 percent or more. If John Gibson loses any more audience, he won't even need a microphone. And your boss, Jabba the Hut, he's taking out ads threatening to fire his own employees. Your ratings whoppin' stick is now smaller than your - falafel.

Bill, seriously, it's slipping away from you. You don't know what to do. You can't even lie well anymore. Seriously, I understand, it's called panic. Like what happened to you in Scranton and Hartford and Boston with that thing with the egg on Zippy the sportscaster's face. And at ABC, when Rick Kaplan got you fired. It's terrifying. You begin to see the audience dying of and the creases deepening in your forehead and the loofas drying up. You make mistakes, you trust the wrong people, you blame Al Franken, you yell at somebody, you yell at everybody. It feels like the ladder is teetering, you're tired, you're depressed, you're anxious, you're balding. Let me give you three words of advice, Bill-O: Keep it up!

Here's an easy segue, from a snake on TV to a "Snakes on a Plane." The first official trailer is out for the internet (INAUDIBLE), you'll see it here. How about snakes on "The View?" Star Jones absent from her old show this morning. She gets a very public slapdown as Baba Wawa goes whip spit. Those stories ahead when Countdown continues.


OLBERMANN: Snakes on a plane, all the rage on the internet will be the rage in the theaters, the must-see trailer is out, we've got it and the must-see rage from "The View" with nails sharpened, Barbara Walter explains why Star Jones was kicked to the curb. That's next, this is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Here is breaking news out of the Middle East, more fallout from the showdown between Israel and Palestinian militants over a kidnapped soldier. Israeli forces announcing that early Thursday morning, their time, they have arrested the deputy prime minister of the Hamas for. That announcement coming almost simultaneously with word from Palestinian militants now say they have executed the 18-year-old Israeli settler who's been abducted in the West Bank. Both sides bracing for a military battle after having invaded Gaza in the south overnight with a show of force. Israel, according to Palestinian witnesses, has invaded northern Gaza.

On the Palestinian side fighters have been laying minds and building sand barriers hoping to draw Israeli troops down the narrow alleys of refugee camps.

Stay tuned to MSNBC for further details.

Meanwhile, a high concept movie is one whose premise can be stated in a single sentence. Our No. 2 story in the Countdown, when you can get to the essence of a film with just one phrase, well then you've "Snakes on a Plane." And whoever came up with pithy, unpoetic little title must be thinking to themselves geniuses by now. It may be laughable, but the internets' took over and created the kind of buzz that Hollywood can only dream of, usually, and now there is the movie trailer. Countdown's senior cinematic terpatology (ph) correspondent, Monica Novotny joins me from headquarters with the long-awaited moment - Monica.

MONICA NOVOTNY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Keith, one critic called this the most appeared film of the decade. Hard to believe. "Wired" magazine has already named it the best worst film of the year. And this week, New Line Cinema is premiering a new trailer featuring snakes, a plane, and a star, Samuel L. Jackson. So now finally you can judge for yourself.


ANNOUNCER: At 30,000 feet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you guys hear that?

ANNOUNCER: Snakes aren't the deadliest thing on this plane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do as I say, and you live.

ANNOUNCER: Samuel L. Jackson.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's may my job to handle life-and-death situation and I'm good at it.

ANNOUNCER: "Snakes on a Plane."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two, three!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what I'm talking about.

ANNOUNCER: This film is not rated. Starts August 18.

NOVOTNY (voice-over): In seven weeks, the snakes take flight. Good news for the film's cult-like internet fan base, now in the thousands thanks to a few clips released online a months ago, and that name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've had it with snakes.

BRIAN FINGLESTEIN, SNAKESONABLOG.COM: Based on the purely on the title, I've never seen anything like this.

NOVOTNY: That's because much of the film's buzz began here, at, written by a Georgetown university law student, (ph).

FINGLESTEIN: You know exactly what you're going to get when you go to see this movie. It's going to have snakes, they're going to be on a plane. There's probably going to be some biting.

The 26-year-old site currently getting some 5,000 hits a day. Inspiring readers to send in their own posters, mock trailers, even their own renditions of what auditions for the film could have been like.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to kill those snakes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are snakes on the plane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know what kind of airline you're running here, but you got a reptile problem.

NOVOTNY: New Line, the studio releasing the film, hoping to turn the Internet excitement into box office bucks, shooting additional scenes to get the film to an "R" rating, which the hopes of bringing in a larger audience, even releasing a paperback version in book stores. But critics expect "Snakes" to slide quickly from the box office to your cable box.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I doubt very highly whether or not people are all that excited about the movie. I think they see this as kind of a joke and see it as sort of a joke on Hollywood, too, as sort of a how low can they go? What will they think of next?

NOVOTNY: Not much lower than snakes. So bad, they're good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two, three! That's what I'm talking about.


NOVOTNY: New Line has made an effort to include there online fans. They held a contest in which musicians could submit a song to be included in the film. The winners were recently chosen, and during the reshoots they added a line in for Samuel L. Jackson, based on an overwhelming number of request from those fans. Now I can't say that line and keep my job, so I'll leave it to your imagination. Keith?

OLBERMANN: So it's a movie about "Snakes on a Plane", I'm gathering.

NOVOTNY: I think so. Yes, something about snakes and then there's definitely a plane.

OLBERMANN: Countdown's Monica Novotny, great, thanks. And snakes not the only ones hopping a plane in the near future. There's also Michael Jackson. That's a segue and an apt one it is, into our roundup of celebrity and news keeping tabs. Jackson reportedly moving to Europe, all part of the pop star's effort to relaunch his career. Spokeswoman Raymone Bain saying, quote, "He's decided with all the projects he's going to be involved with and all the people he's beginning to work with in the industry, it's easier." This will of course require Jackson to leave that nexus of the record industry activity, Bahrain, where's been living for the next year. Jackson plans a comeback world tour and wants to release a new album in 2007, right after he finishes that Hurricane Katrina tribute song.

There is evident good news about the nation's top baseball reporter, Peter Gammons of ESPN. In a statement released by his wife Gloria, the Hall of Fame writer and sportscaster is described as being in good condition at Boston hospital, resting comfortably after surgical repair of a brain aneurysm. The details are a little more harrowing, but more encouraging still. Peter Gammons apparently sensed something was wrong as he drove near his home in Cape Cod on Tuesday morning. He pulled off the road, called his family by cell phone, described his symptoms and suggested they call for help. An EMS team apparently found him unconscious or nearly so and he was medivacced to Boston. The aneurysm was apparently caught, clamped off in medical terminology before it ruptured. By Tuesday night, it was suggested to Gloria Gammons that she try to talk to her husband in the hospital. She told him the Boston Red Sox had beaten the New York Mets by a score of 9-4 and he squeezed her hand tightly. Peter Gammons will be in intensive care for at least 10 days, but there is cautious optimism for his recovery.

Also here, Jones'in for Star. The departure of one of the hosts of "The View" turns into an on-air verbal brawl. That's head, but first time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for worst person in the world.

The bronze to radio host Glenn Beck. Here's his version of the anti- "New York Times" hysteria. Quote, "Can you imagine the 'New York Times' coming out and saying, 'Hey, the ovens aren't so bad back in World War II. Can you imagine that?" he continued. " I don't know. Sure there are some Jews in there, but I bet they might make some good pizzas in there, too. The 'New York Times is just - I don't get it, I don't understand it." Un quote. Mr. Beck, do you understand this? Resign your job and leave this country.

Our runner up, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah who now says there was nothing in the Senate it could be doing that was more important than banning flag burning. "I was asked this afternoon by a large body of media, is the most important thing the Senate could be doing at this time? I can tell you, you're darn right it is." Senator, heard anything about this war we have going, or the terror thing?

But the winner, Brent Bozell, Red Beard, again, from the rapid right spin machine the Media Research Council. He has targeted this show now for his latest NRC action alert. You know, sending us impotent e-mails that make everybody here laugh. Our inbox now has literally dozens of them demanding that we quote, "tell the truth about the WMD that were found in Iraq." OK, we'll do it again. There weren't any. Rick Santorum tried to pretend there were. And if you believed him, you may actually be a sheep. Thanks for writing. Brent Bozell of the Media Research Council, today's worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN: The nature of our cosmos that stars do not live forever. Most tend to die out slowly, cooling down until they barely shine any longer. But some of them collapse into holes of a sort, sucking everything around them into oblivion. And some just simply explode. The No. 1 story on the Countdown, Star Jones goes all nova on our behinds. Her departure from the talk show "The View" had been planned for months. Behind the scenes, everyone was waiting for her to make the announcement on Thursday. Instead to the visible shock of her co-hosts, she interrupted a planned segment on air conditioning on Tuesday morning to break the news then.


STAR JONES REYNOLDS, FORMER CO-HOST, THE VIEW: Excuse me one minute, you guys. I apologize for interrupting you. Somebody has been on my heart for a little bit and after much prayer and counsel, I feel like this is the right time to tell you that the show is moving in another direction for the tenth season and I will not be returning as co-host next year.

JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST, THE VIEW: Oh, shocking. It's shocking to me.

REYNOLDS: I'm going to hold your hands right now, because as you might imagine this is a hard thing to do, OK?

BEHAR: This is hard, sure.

WALTERS: We have heard rumors, we have read rumors. This is a surprise that this would come about this way, we did not expect it.


OLBERMANN: What did you say? Barbara Walters regained her aplomb and delivered a minute-long tribute extolling Star Jones' humor and intelligence, saying that she helped make "The View" a success and it was a joy to have her on the show for nine years. She later asked how long Jones would stay on the program. When Jones answered until July, Walters said, "I hope you'll stay with us as long as you like."

But come Wednesday morning, it was a different story. Just three hosts walked out onto the set and it was up to the show's founder, a decidedly upset Ms. Walters to explain how Star Jones had gone poof.


WALTERS: We didn't expect her to make the statement yesterday. She gave us no warning and we were taken by surprise. But the truth is that Star has known for months that ABC did not want to renew her contract and that she would not be asked back in the fall. The network made this decision based on a variety of reasons that I won't go into now. But we were never going to say this. We wanted to protect Star. And so we told her that she could say whatever she wanted about why she was leaving and that we would back her up. We worked closely with her representatives and we gave her time to look for another job and we hoped then that she would announce it here on the program and leave with dignity.

But Star made another choice. And since her announcement yesterday, she has made further announcements that surprised us. So it is becoming uncomfortable for us to pretend that everything is the same at this table. And therefore regrettably, Star will no longer be on this program except for some shows that have been prerecorded.


OLBERMANN: It's really, really regrettable. Those other surprises Ms. Walters mentioned, merely an interview with "People" magazine in which Ms. Jones said she felt like she'd been fired, an interview that was posted on the Web before she was even off the air Tuesday. Then after Walters told the "Associated Press" that she felt betrayed and Jones' surprise announcement, Jones told a radio interviewer that in fact it was she who was betrayed, quoting here, "Barbara didn't have my back."

To assess this cosmic fallout, I am joined by "US Weekly's" contributing editor Katrina Szish. Thanks for being with us.


OLBERMANN: Why do I smell a rat here? This went nuclear awfully fast, didn't it. I mean, was there a tipping point? There are snakes on this plane moment somewhere?

SZISH: It was something like that. I think all of the rumors that were circulating, it was building and building. It was, who was going to make the final move? Who was going to have the power in the end? I think Star tried to trump Barbara. Barbara ultimately today trumped Star and it was just kind of a meeting of all sorts of powers and like you said, they went poof.

OLBERMANN: Was it the last straw here, that interview with "People" magazine? I mean obviously she gave that interview before she signed off the air Tuesday.

SZISH: I think it was a combination of that interview specifically and also the fact that they had planned that she would make that announcement on Thursday. The fact that she interrupted a segment, took everybody by surprise, specifically the founder and one of the co-founders and co-executive producers of the show, Barbara Walters. That she also Barbara by surprise on live T.V. That's got to earn you kind of a bumpy ride.

OLBERMANN: And the segment was on air conditioning, which is very important too.

SZISH: It's very - it's crucial.

OLBERMANN: Is the lesson here, don't mess with Baba Wawa?

SZISH: Well, you know, I think you can't say that. I think you have to play ball with the professional ball players and Barbara is one of the most professional ball players there is. You don't want to mess with her. But not in a bad way. If you promise something, you want to be professional. You want to follow-through on that he promise. I think Star didn't do it. The fact that Barbara is such a public face, that everybody knows her, this is something that played out in front of the cameras, as opposed to something that played out behind the cameras and that's why we're hearing so much about it.

OLBERMANN: But ABC also seemed to be a little flat-footed on this. There was no time wasted in scrubbing references to Star Jones from "The View." She was not in the opening credits, not on the Web site anymore. It may have been surprised, but not unprepared for this?

SZISH: Well as we know and as everybody has said, everybody knew that her contract - everyone behind the scenes knew that her contract was not going to be renewed. And once you mess with the big machine, the big machines certainly has no problem sort of wiping you kind of out off its slate, wiping you from memory, and it kinds of reminds me of someone who has a job, all of the sudden they get fired and it's as if they never work there. And I think big companies, specifically in this case big networks, work that way.

OLBERMANN: There is one conspiracy theory on this, that we've seen these extended good-byes this year, Katie Couric on the "Today Show," Charlie Gibson on "Good Morning America," highlight tapes, emotional farewell speeches. Given some of Star Jones's history on "The View," things like getting hit by a football in the face and her dramatic weight loss, which she never really explained, is it possible that she went this way because she just didn't want to be remembered with a highlight tape that showed her that way?

SZISH: I think that's very unlikely. Everybody's vain - Star has certainly been described as very vain, but I think that she would rather see a highlight tape of herself as opposed to not. But this was really her final statement of saying, "You cannot renew my contract, but I am going to choose how I leave the show. I am going to take the power here." It wasn't about seeing herself in unflattering clips.

OLBERMANN: And in 15 seconds, what did Rosie O'Donnell have to do with this if anything?

SZISH: Rosie and Star clearly are not the friends. But I think this was a Star issue, very separate from the Rosie issue. I think luckily they did not overlap.

OLBERMANN: Katrina Szish of "US Weekly." Great, thanks for your time and thanks for not getting damaged by the exploding Star Jones.

SZISH: It was hard.

OLBERMANN: It was, for all of us. That's Countdown for this, the 1,154th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night, and good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with "SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY." Joe, good evening.