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.